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Changes to diabetic eye screening

NHS Scotland has changed the Diabetic Eye Screening (DES) programme.

The change process began in October 2020 and is outlined below, including the addition of Optical Coherence Tomography, (OCT), to the programme.

Revised screening intervals

Following scientific evidence, the UK National Screening Committee recommends people with diabetes who are at low risk of sight loss should be screened for diabetic retinopathy (DR) every two years, instead of every year.

People at high risk of sight loss should continue to receive annual or six-monthly screening.

How will the DES programme determine who is at low or high risk?

A person's previous screening history will be used to determine whether they are deemed low risk of sight loss.

The move to two yearly screening has been phased in, with some people at low risk being transferred to two yearly intervals immediately and others being transferred after their next screening test.

Incorporating Optical Coherence Tomography into the Diabetic Eye Screening Programme

Sometimes an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan is needed to detect macular oedema (MO), which is the leading cause of moderate sight loss in people with diabetes.

The Scottish Screening Committee has recommended that OCT surveillance is formally incorporated into the DES programme.

This started from 1 January, 2021 and means OCT will generally be delivered by DES teams instead of ophthalmology. This should reduce patient waiting times for OCT and allow ophthalmology clinics to be used more effectively.