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The aim of the English NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) is to reduce the risk of sight loss amongst people with diabetes by the prompt identification and effective treatment if necessary of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy, at the appropriate stage during the disease process, with a long-term aim of preventing blindness in people with diabetes.For the year 2009-2010, diabetic retinopathy (DR) was no longer the leading cause of blindness in the working age group. There have been further reductions in DR certifications for WHO severe vision impairment and blindness from 1,334 (5.5% of all certifications) in 2009/2010 to 840 (3.5% of all certifications) in 2018/2019. NHS DESP is a major contributor to this further reduction, but one must also take into account improvements in glycaemic and blood pressure control, timely laser treatment and vitrectomy surgery, improved monitoring techniques for glycaemic control, and vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor injections for control of diabetic macular oedema. The latter have had a particular impact since first introduced in the UK in 2013.Current plans for NHS DESP include extension of screening intervals in low-risk groups and the introduction of optical coherence tomography as a second line of screening for those with screen positive maculopathy with two dimensional markers. Future challenges include the introduction of automated analysis for grading and new camera technologies.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Diabetol

Publication Date





521 - 530


Blindness, Diabetic retinopathy, Screening, Vision impairment