Gloucestershire diabetic eye screening programme
Everyone diagnosed with diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), aged 12 and above, will be invited to Diabetic Eye Screening. This will be repeated yearly with some exceptions for patients we have referred into the hospital eye services.
1st Floor, Orchard Centre, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Great Western Road, Gloucester, GL1 3NN
To make an appointment, please call: 0300 422 4419
For other enquiries email us
If you have recently attended your Diabetic Eye Screening appointment, if you can spare 5 minutes to answer 10 short questions we would appreciate your feedback.
What is Screening, and who is it for?
Everyone diagnosed with diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), aged 12 and above, will be invited to Diabetic Eye Screening. People eligible for diabetic eye screening who have had two consecutive eye screens showing no signs of diabetic retinopathy will be offered screening every 2 years as it is safe to do so, with some exceptions for patients we have referred into the hospital eye services
- Your diabetic eye screening appointment will last approximately 40 minutes.
- The screener will explain the process to you. They will ask for information about your diabetes medication and any pre-existing eye conditions.
- A vision test will be performed so please bring any glasses you use for distance vision.
- Eye drops will be used to dilate your pupils to enable the screener to take the clearest photographs possible. The eye drops can leave you with blurred vision for several hours (between 2 and 6 varying from person to person) so it is advisable not to drive until the effects wear off.
- Photographs of the retina will be taken using a specialist camera. The retina is the layer in the back wall of the eye that detects light, enabling us to see. Nothing touches your eyes, there will just be a bright flash of light when the photographs are taken.
- The photographs are sent to our grading team for thorough assessment.
- You will receive a results letter by post a few weeks later. Your GP will also be notified of the results to help them make decisions about your diabetes management.
What are we looking for?
We are looking for diabetic retinopathy which is damage to the small blood vessels in the retina of the eye, caused by high blood sugar levels. There are a number of small indicators of damage we can pick up on before the vision is affected. Diabetic retinopathy is preventable and treatable but if left can cause significant sight loss, even blindness.
Good diabetes management is the best way to defend against complications of diabetes such as diabetic retinopathy. However, even patients with good sugar control can sometimes develop retinopathy so it is very important to attend screening annually, to allow early detection and treatment of eye disease.
If you are considering not attending diabetic eye screening, please discuss this with your GP or ask to speak with one of our senior clinicians on 0300 422 4419.
Extended Screening Intervals
NHS diabetic eye screening intervals are changing for people at lower risk
From October 2023, the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) will start to invite people at lower risk of diabetic retinopathy for screening every 2 years instead of every year.
People eligible for diabetic eye screening who have had two consecutive eye screens showing no signs of diabetic retinopathy will be offered screening every 2 years as it is safe to do so.
This change is based on a recommendation by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) following a large study showing it was safe to invite people in this lower risk group every 2 years. Extended intervals are already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Diabetic eye screening is important as it helps to prevent sight loss. As someone with diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy. Screening can detect this condition early before you notice any changes to your vision.
If someone is concerned about changes to their eyesight, they should contact their optometrist or optician straight away.
Read some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about extended intervals
About your appointment
We hold Diabetic Eye Screening clinics at a wide range of venues across the county throughout the year. These include Gloucester Royal Hospital (GRH), Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH), a small number of GP practices, community hospitals and on our mobile screening vans. Some evening and Saturday clinics are available. We also provide a Drop-in service where patients without an appointment can turn up and be screened at:
- GRH (Orchard Centre): Monday–Friday 08:30–15.00
- GRH (Orchard Centre): the second Saturday of every month, 08:30-15.00
- CGH (Medical Photography): the last Wednesday of every month, 08:30–15:00
Your results explained
No diabetic retinopathy
There were no signs of diabetic retinopathy found in the retinal images this year. The first time no retinopathy is found, you’ll usually be invited to go again in 12 months.
From the second time no retinopathy is found, you’ll usually be invited for screening every 2 years.
Background retinopathy is the most common type of diabetic retinopathy. This early type is diagnosed in many people who have had diabetes for some time. The blood vessels in the retina are only mildly affected and the risk of progression can be reduced by good blood sugar control. Your annual retinal screening test will keep a close check on these early signs to ensure that any evidence of progression to a more serious stage of retinopathy will be detected early.
Pre-proliferative and Proliferative Retinopathy
Pre-proliferative and Proliferative Retinopathy means that more extensive effects of diabetes have been identified. Patients are referred to the Hospital Eye Service for monitoring at frequent intervals because there is an increased risk of the diabetic retinopathy affecting their sight and they may require treatment.
Diabetic maculopathy is diagnosed when the blood vessels in the macula area are affected and frequently requires monitoring more closely. Where necessary, there are treatments which can be offered to reduce the risk of sight loss. The macula in the eye is responsible for our fine central vision.
Occasionally we are unable to capture clear images of your eyes - this is not unusual and can be due to a variety of causes. If this happens to you, we will refer you to the Hospital Eye Service where different equipment will be used to assess the back of your eyes.
I have retinopathy. What happens next?
This depends on the extent of diabetic retinopathy. If you have ‘Background Retinopathy’, it means there are early signs of diabetic retinopathy. It is important that you take strict measures to control your diabetes, but no referral is necessary at this point. We will screen you again in one year.
If more significant signs of retinopathy are found, we may invite you back for monitoring more frequently, or refer you directly to the eye doctors.
Why have I received a letter with an appointment date that I did not make?
We write to patients a little ahead of when they are due to be screened, this will either be a fixed appointment or a letter asking you to contact us to book an appointment.
If you are given a pre-booked appointment and it is not convenient this can be amended and rearranged by giving our office a quick call (0300 422 4419)
How long do the drops last?
The drops can affect your vision for up to six hours. You’ll experience slightly blurrier vision, and may find bright lights uncomfortable.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Please bring your glasses to complete the visual acuity test. Sunglasses can help with the increased sensitivity to light following your appointment. Information on your diabetes medication and a note of any eye conditions you have/are being treated for can be useful.
How long does the appointment take?
You may have your screening completed within 25 minutes but it may also take up to one hour. This depends on how well your pupils respond to the dilating drops.
Is it painful/will I lose my vision?
The drops can sting for a few seconds when they are first instilled but this soon passes. Your vision is blurred for a time but will return to normal in a few hours.
At the appointment we will inform you of a rare reaction patients can have to the drops and provide you with a phone number to the 24 hour help line to the eye department. This can used should you experience any discomfort following your appointment.
Results – When do I get my results?
Results will be sent to you by post within six weeks of your eye screening appointment.
Results – What does satisfactory mean?
It means the retinal photographs do not show any signs of diabetic retinopathy.
It is not a description of how well you performed on your vision test.
If I am “Diabetes Resolved” why do I still need screening?
Diabetes Resolved patients are still at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, it is safer to continue attending screening.
I need transport, can you book it for me?
If you require hospital transport we are not able to book this for you. You will need to arrange this with the hospital transport service after booking an appointment with us.
I have had/am having cataract surgery so do I need to come to screening?
You will still need to attend your annual screening appointment while your cataracts are being assessed at the hospital. This is because the retina won’t be examined for diabetic retinopathy at your cataract appointments.
If you have recently had cataract surgery please allow two weeks following surgery before coming to be screened.
Cataract makes the lens of your eye less transparent, which can mean that the photographs we take may be hazy. If the pictures aren’t clear enough for us to complete our retinopathy check you may be referred to an eye doctor for your retinal examination.
The National Diabetic Eye Screening Programme stipulates that the local programme must receive direct confirmation from a patient who wishes to not attend any screening appointments.
This decision should be made after conferring with your GP, as it can have serious consequences on the health of your eyes/vision.
If you choose not to attend, please contact the administration office to arrange the ‘Opt out’.
If you do not express a wish to Opt Out, we will continue to send you invitation letters until you have made contact with us to ‘Opt out’.
You can ‘Opt back in’ at any time during the ‘Opt out’ period.
After a maximum of three years of opting out, we will resume inviting you to screening.
Links to useful information
- Diabetes UK
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in English
- Diabetic eye screening: easy read guide
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Arabic
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Bengali
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Chinese (Simplified)
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Gujarati
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Hindi
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Polish
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Portuguese
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Punjabi
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Romanian
- Your guide to diabetic eye screening in Urdu