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Right Arrow Diabetic retinopathy screening
11 October 2010 at 09:20
A hospital eye specialist is offering reassurance to patients who may have been left concerned by a BBC News story about diabetic retinopathy screening.

The Trust performs screenings on behalf of the North Mersey Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme at Southport and Formby District Hospital and is reviewing a number of images following concern raised about two grading staff.

Consultant ophthalmologist Niall O’Donnell said: “I would like to reassure all our patients that any risk to them is extremely low.

“We are reviewing some patient images as a precautionary measure and are confident that most, if not all, have been satisfactorily graded.

“The Trust has already screened 274 patients again as part of their annual review and who were originally seen by the two staff concerned. None of these patients have shown any significant change.”

The Trust voluntarily subscribes to a system of performance monitoring and testing of all its image graders in accordance with nationally laid down guidelines. This testing takes place at least every two months.

It was as part of this process that concern was raised in July about two staff. They were taken off grading duties in the interests of patient safety.

The screening examination involves photographing the back of a patient’s eyes and grading the images on a scale of zero to three.

Images graded two and three are immediately referred for further investigation. All images graded one are automatically double-checked. Ten per cent of images graded zero (i.e. no evidence of diabetic retinopathy) are also double-checked.

The Trust is now reviewing 536 patients’ images graded zero by the two staff between April 2009 and July 2010 as a precautionary measure. This represents less than 3% of all images graded for the retinopathy programme annually.

The review will establish if a patient needs to be seen again. Any patient who needs to be recalled before their annual check will be contacted by us before the end of the month.

As the Trust holds all images electronically, there is no need for patients to contact us for a further appointment. If any patient does have concerns, the Trust is operating an information line between 8am and 8pm on 01704 704070.

It is intended the two staff taken off grading will return to their regular duties after receiving training to remedy the concerns raised in the performance test.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes in which the retina, a part of the eye, becomes progressively damaged.

During the initial stages, diabetic retinopathy does not cause any symptoms. However, if it is not treated it can cause partial, and later total, loss of vision.

The NHS launched a screening programme in 2005. As part of the programme, everyone with diabetes who is 12 years of age or over should receive a diabetic retinopathy examination once a year.