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For Patients

Low Risk Screening

Diabetic Eye Screening – restoring services safely and prioritising people at greatest risk of sight loss

To help the NHS respond to the coronavirus, most local Diabetic Eye Services (DES) were unable to provide screening appointments during the initial phases of the lockdown in England. The NHS is now working to restore DES safely whilst considering social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. This means that your local DES provided by NPS Care will not be able to see as many people as they would normally as more time is required between appointments to disinfect equipment, waiting areas and clinic spaces.

For this reason, it is important that appointment slots are used appropriately and those who most need screening can receive it. People at greater risk of sight loss are now being prioritised for screening, and those at very low risk of sight loss will have their appointment delayed to provide the necessary capacity.

  • severe eye pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe headache
  • blurred vision and seeing halos around lights
  • profuse tearing.

The aim of the NHS diabetic eye screening programme is to prevent sight loss in people with diabetes.

Diabetic eye disease (retinopathy) is screened for using digital photography. Identifying retinopathy early means treatment is more effective. Damage to the eyes caused by diabetes can be reduced or prevented.

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Longer screening intervals for those at lowest risk of sight loss

If you attended your last invited screening appointment and there was no retinopathy detected there is very little risk of you developing sight threatening disease before your next appointment. Evidence gathered over several years shows that if you had no retinopathy at your last two scheduled appointments, the chance of developing sight threatening retinopathy in the following 24 months is very low.

To enable local services to restore DES safely, people who attended their last appointment and had no retinopathy will be invited for their next screening appointment at a longer interval than normal. The maximum time between appointments for this group of people will be 24 months, and research shows that this is safe.

This enables sufficient appointments to be available to screen people who are at higher risk of developing sight threatening retinopathy and will allow others to be screened when it is safe and clinically appropriate.

Anyone who waits longer than 24 months between routine DES appointments should contact their local screening service.

If you have any problems with your vision before your next diabetic eye screening appointment please contact your optician or GP.

Further information

Further information regarding the safety and effectiveness of extending the screening interval for people with no retinopathy at their last attended screening appointment is available by following the links below:


Scanlon P.H. Stratton I.M. Histed. M. Chave S.J. Aldington S.J. The influence of background diabetic retinopathy in the second eye on rates of progression of diabetic retinopathy between 2005 and 2010. Acta Ophthalmol. 2013; 91(5): e335-339.


Stratton IM, Aldington SJ, Taylor DJ, Adler AI, Scanlon PH. A simple risk stratification for time to development of sight threatening diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes Care. 2013 Mar;36(3):580-5