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A national screening programme for diabetic retinopathy

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 07 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:4

Needs to learn the lessons of existing screening programmes

  1. Ulrich Freudenstein (, locum consultant in public health medicine,
  2. Julia Verne (, consultant in public health medicine
  1. Wiltshire Health Authority, Devizes SN10 5EQ
  2. NHS Executive, Bristol BS34 8SR

    Retinopathy is the biggest single cause of blindness in the United Kingdom.1 Laser coagulation of high risk lesions detected by screening can significantly reduce the likelihood of blindness and deteriorating vision. 2 3 Screening for diabetic retinopathy has been available in some areas of the United Kingdom since the late 1980s, but access is uneven, screening techniques of differing effectiveness have been used, 3 4 quality assurance may not be an integral part, and the resources available are variable. A national screening programme has now been recommended, but several organisational issues need to be tackled if this programme is not to repeat the problems incurred by earlier national screening programmes.

    In 1999 the UK National Screening Committee asked the British Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK) to convene an advisory panel to produce a model for a cost effective national screening programme. The panel's recommendations are now published on the national screening committee's website ( The preferred method for screening is digital retinal photography. …

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