Posted: May 26 2021
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust launches sight-saving super clinics for people with diabetes in Watford’s Stanborough Conference Centre
HCT has launched a series of super clinics for people with diabetes at Stanborough Conference Centre, Watford, providing potentially sight-saving diabetic retinopathy screening for more than 150 local people each day.
The West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (WHDESP) screens for eye disease caused by diabetes, and is a vital annual check-up for everyone with diabetes aged 12 and over. Eye disease caused by diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy which can lead to sight loss if undetected at an early stage. Diabetic eye-screening is a quick and simple check-up. Patients are guided through a sight test and a diabetic eye screener takes pictures of the back of the eye (retina) using a Fundus Camera. This does not replace a routine optician’s appointment.
The diabetic eye screening super clinics are a new initiative established by WHDESP (HCT) taking place in May and June 2021 to ensure that all patients can receive their regular check-up in a COVID-safe way, as soon as possible. In the new setting of Stanborough Conference Centre, a team of six diabetic eye screeners can see up to 160 pre-booked patients between 9am and 5pm. More super clinics are planned monthly, and patients will be sent invitation letters to attend. These appointments are by invitation only, as the clinic cannot accept walk-ins.
Tinu Fakoya, HCT Programme Manager for WHDESP, said: “We’re delighted to launch these new diabetic eye screening super clinics in Watford and are grateful to Stanborough Park Conference Centre for their support, and to our team for coming up with the innovative idea. These super clinics allow us to see many more patients in a day than our usual clinics, and the spacious, well ventilated, location helps to keep our patients and staff COVID-safe.”
Dr Sadhana Kulkarni, Operational Clinical Lead for the West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (WHDESP) said: “People with diabetes have a higher than average risk of developing sight-threatening eye disease. Diabetic eye screening is the quickest and easiest way for us to detect any problems early on, and we can then take steps to prevent any sight loss. Our trained eye screeners can spot a potential issue before a patient even notices any difference to their sight, so it’s very important for all people with diabetes to attend their screening when invited, even if they have no concerns. When you receive your appointment invitation letter, please respond as soon as possible; we’re looking forward to seeing lots of familiar faces.”
Rebecca Millar, an interior designer aged 23 from Napsbury Park, has lived with diabetes all her life since being diagnosed at the age of two years old. At 19, her routine eye-screening appointment with WHDESP detected signs of burst blood vessels in the back of her eye. She was referred immediately to consultant-led care at Watford General Hospital and underwent laser surgery only a week later.
Rebecca tells her story: ““The consultant told me I was a serious case and that my right eye was particularly bad. He said that if I didn’t have laser surgery soon I was at risk of losing my eyesight altogether.
“It was a shock to be told something like that at only 19 and especially because before I went to my screening appointment I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with my eyesight. But I also wasn’t surprised, I’ve always struggled to keep on top of my diabetes and I know that this is risky because there are so many complications that can happen as a result. I come from a family of people with diabetes and I’ve had it drilled into me that I must look after myself because diabetes is not like a cold, it won’t just disappear or get better, and the consequences could be permanent.
“The screening that picked up the problem and the surgery that fixed it happened four years ago and I have my sight today because of it. I think everyone who is invited to an eye screening appointment must go, there can’t be anything more important than protecting your eyesight.”
The first patient through the doors at the first super clinic at Stanborough Conference Centre on 4 May was Mr Andrew Griffin, aged 73 from Watford, who was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago. He said: “Everything ran so smoothly today, it’s a brilliant set up and very efficient. I do worry about my eyesight, especially as I get older, so it’s reassuring to be able to have these regular check-ups.”
Rupa Dave, aged 38 from Watford, was diagnosed with diabetes 13 years ago. She said “The check-up feels the same as usual but the new location is great, lots of space and it doesn’t feel crowded. I feel like we’re being very well looked after. I’m very grateful that this service is able to continue, even under COVID restrictions.”
Jessie Roberts, aged 26, is one of the Diabetic Retinal Screener Graders working at the super clinic. She said: “It’s great to be working alongside my colleagues as a team, at our usual clinics we work individually. We’ve taken every precaution to keep people safe – we change PPE between every patient, we wipe down our equipment and we’re adhering to all social distancing guidelines. Patients are sent information about their appointment before they attend and they are always welcome to call us if they any questions or concerns.”
Eligible people with diabetes in Watford and the surrounds who still need to have their annual check-up this year are being invited in order of risk priority by the WHDESP. For patients under the age of 18, this invitation will be made to the parent or guardian. An appointment will be booked with you and there is no need for you to take any action before you receive the invitation letter. The clinics will run in May and June.
If you or a family member has diabetes and you have any questions or concerns about the condition, please speak to your GP or visit Diabetes UK for more information. In the event of a medical emergency, always call 999.
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