The West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) is part of a National programme dedicated to screening patients with diabetes in order to detect diabetic eye disease (retinopathy).
Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening condition that can affect anyone who has diabetes. It affects the retina at the back of the eye and is caused when the blood vessels become blocked, leak or grow haphazardly. You may not be aware of any changes to the retina until your vision has been impaired, at which point it may not be possible to completely restore your vision; this is why it is essential to have your eyes screened every year.
Regular annual screening enables the monitoring of any retinal changes with subsequent referral to the hospital eye service if required. The West Herts eye screening team is dedicated to making you feel comfortable and to ensuring that you are kept fully informed at each stage of the screening process.
If you are worried about your eyes, you should see your doctor or optician for advice.
Tel: 01442 285825
Please click on the links below for location and contact details for each clinic.
St Albans Health and Wellbeing Centre (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
South Oxhey Health Centre (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Gossoms End (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Avenue Clinic, Watford (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Potters Bar Community Hospital (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Skidmore Way Clinic, Rickmansworth (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Elstree Way Clinic, Borehamwood (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Marlowes Health & Wellbeing Centre (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
Harpenden Memorial Hospital (Digital Retinal Screening Service)
The Diabetic Eye Screening Programme offers retinal screening to all people with diabetes aged 12 and over who live in the West Hertfordshire catchment area. The programme is based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with screening clinics held at ten venues throughout the area.
When you are diagnosed with diabetes, your GP will inform our programme; we will invite you to attend an eye screening appointment at a venue close to your home.
Should you prefer to attend an alternative venue, or change the date of your appointment, please contact our office on 01442 285825. Our team of administrators will be happy to assist you.
Images taken of your eyes are reviewed by the grading team and the results are sent out within six weeks to both yourself and your GP. If diabetic retinopathy is noted, a referral may be made to your local hospital eye service, or you may be recalled more frequently for closer monitoring.
Our team of qualified screeners, graders and administrators understand that the service we provide needs to be individual and take into account the psychological, social and geographical needs of our patients.
We are continually looking for ways to improve the service we provide and welcome feedback from patients to help us achieve this.
Patients aged 12 and above, who have a definitive diagnosis or a previous history of diabetes and are registered with a GP in West Hertfordshire. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the examination and the equipment used, we can’t screen patients who are either house- or bedbound.
At the screening appointment the screener will check your sight on a letter chart (please bring your spectacles). Eye drops will be put into your eyes to dilate your pupils to enable high quality photographs of the retinae (back of the eyes) using a digital camera. Once your pupils are sufficiently dilated, usually after 20 minutes, two photographs are taken of each eye.
The photographs are analysed at our grading centre for any changes to the retinae which may require monitoring or treatment and will go through at least two grading processes to ensure accuracy before the results are sent to you and your GP.
Please note, the eye drops may sting for a few seconds after they have been administered and will temporarily blur your vision, this can last for up to 3-4 hours. They will make your eyes sensitive to bright light, preventing you from reading or driving for the duration of the blurring. Due to the blurring of your vision it is important that you do not drive after your eye screening appointment, as this could invalidate your car insurance.
Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, therefore to reduce your risk of developing retinopathy, or to stop it from getting worse, research has shown the following aspects of good diabetic control to be of significant benefit:
Eating a healthy balanced diet, losing weight (if necessary) and keeping active with regular exercise are important in the control of diabetes. If you smoke, it is advised you should try to stop - advice and support to help you stop smoking can be sought from the Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service. They can be contacted on 0800 389 3998 or text SMOKEFREE on 80818.
The following information leaflets are available to download - they are also available in other languages if required:
Your guide to diabetic eye screening
Your guide to diabetic retinopathy
Closer monitoring and treatment for diabetic retinopathy
Information leaflet for pregnant patients
The following useful documents, for both patients and healthcare professionals, can be downloaded:
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for healthcare professionals
Diabetic Eye Screening poster for display at your practice
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients with background retinopathy
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients with diabetic retinopathy
National Diabetic Eye Screening Programme
Diabetes UK Careline: 0345 123 2399
How can I access the diabetic eye screening service?
Through your GP who will refer you to the programme; once we have received a referral we will invite you for diabetic eye screening.
Do I still need to attend if an optician has looked at my eyes?
Yes, diabetic eye screening specifically looks for changes caused by diabetes. Most opticians will not routinely check for diabetic eye disease when carrying out a standard eye test.
I am diabetic but have not received an appointment.
Please contact your GP who will refer you for diabetic eye screening.
I am no longer diabetic.
Recent guidelines from the National Diabetic Eye Screening Programme advise that any patient who has ever had a definitive diagnosis of diabetes should continue to attend as invited, for life. This is because it is possible for diabetic retinopathy to occur even after blood sugar levels have returned to normal.
I am attending a hospital for my eyes, do I still need to be screened?
If you are under the care of a hospital eye service (HES) for the management or treatment of diabetic eye disease and we are in regular receipt of your results you may not need to attend for diabetic eye screening. However, if you are being seen for any other eye condition, including cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma, it is still important that you attend.
How long will the screening appointment take?
Patients are advised to allow up to one hour for their appointment.
Can I choose a different venue?
Yes, we have ten venues throughout West Hertfordshire – please inform our administrators of your preferred venue.
Can transport be arranged for me to attend my appointment?
Unfortunately we are unable to arrange transport for you. If you are eligible for NHS transport, please call 0345 605 1208 to book. Their phone lines are open every day from 8am-6pm. If you do not qualify for hospital transport there are a number of voluntary organisations who can provide transport to and from your appointment for a small fee. Our administration team can provide further details on request.
Is it important to tell the screener if I am pregnant?
Yes, it is important to inform the screener if you are pregnant as we will need to see you more frequently throughout your pregnancy. This is because pregnancy can worsen, or cause diabetic retinopathy; by more regular screening we hope to diagnose problems and refer for treatment before they cause sight loss.
Why can’t I drive to this appointment?
You should not drive for at least 3-4 hours after your appointment. This is because the drops used to dilate your eyes can cause blurred vision and may affect your ability to drive.
How do I get a copy of my retinal images?
If you wish to have a copy of your images please send a request in writing to:
Access to records,
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
Unit 1a Howard Court,
14 Tewin Road,
Welwyn Garden City
Do I need to bring anything with me?
If you wear glasses please bring these with you. You may also wish to bring sunglasses with you as these can help with the increased sensitivity to light following the drops.
Do I still need to attend this appointment if I have recently had cataract surgery?
Yes, in fact after cataract surgery we get much clearer view of the retina (the back of the eye); this makes it easier to pick up any diabetic changes that may require treatment.
What do I do if I have a reaction to the drops?
The screener will provide you with an advice sheet on how to manage any problems that occur after having the drops. It is very rare for patients to experience problems.
I am not on any diabetic medication, why do I need screening?
The diagnosis of diabetes suggests you have a raised level of sugar in your bloodstream. This can potentially cause harm to the tiny blood vessels in the body, including in the eye. Even if you are not on any medication for diabetes, it is essential to check the back of the eye to ensure you do not have changes that could cause sight loss.
I’ve only just come for an appointment, why have I received another?
You may have been recalled for a number of reasons:
1) The images taken were not of sufficient quality due to a technical error.
2) The images taken were unclear due to the presence of cataracts/other eye condition.
3) You have been moved in to the digital surveillance pathway. Patients within this pathway need to be monitored more closely so receive more frequent appointments.
I do not wish to attend for diabetic eye screening.
If you do not wish to attend for screening please contact the administration team to request opt out forms. Once these forms are signed and returned to us we will opt you out of screening for your chosen period (maximum three years). Unfortunately, if the forms are not returned we are obliged to keep sending invitation letters.
Why can’t I get my results at the appointment, why do I have to wait for them?
Results cannot be provided at the appointment as images need to be sent back to the grading office and reviewed using specific equipment; images have to go through a quality assurance process where they are assessed by different members of the grading team. All Diabetic Eye Screening Programmes are required by the National Screening Committee to ensure images go through this grading process before results are produced.
Referrals to the eye screening programme should be made using the GP and DSN referral form or for pregnant patients, referrals can be sent by the following routes:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By fax: 01442 285858
Diabetic Retinal Screening Service
Gossoms End Community Hospital
If you would like to share your story, please contact the Patient Experience team on 01707 388036 or email email@example.com.
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