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AIMS: We describe a pilot study of measurement of quality assurance targets for diabetic retinopathy screening and performance comparison between 10 existing services, in preparation for the roll-out of the national programme. BACKGROUND: In 1999 the UK National Screening Committee approved proposals for a national diabetic retinopathy risk reduction programme, including recommendations for quality assurance, but implementation was held pending publication of the National Service Framework for Diabetes. Existing services requested the authors to perform a pilot study of a QA scheme, indicating willingness to contribute data for comparison. METHODS: Objectives and quality standards were developed, following consultation with diabetologists, ophthalmologists and retinal screeners. Services submitted 2001/2 performance data, in response to a questionnaire, for anonymization, central analysis and comparison. RESULTS: The 17 quality standards encompass all aspects of the programme from identification of patients to timeliness of treatment. Ten programmes took part, submitting all the data available. All returns were incomplete, but especially so from the optometry-based schemes. Eight or more services demonstrated they could reach the minimum level in only five of the 17 standards. Thirty per cent could not provide coverage data. All were running behind. Reasons for difficulties in obtaining data and/or failing to achieve standards included severe under-funding and little previous experience of QA. Information systems were limited and incompatible between diabetes and eye units, and there was a lack of co-ordinated management of the whole programme. CONCLUSION: Quality assurance is time-consuming, expensive and inadequately resourced. The pilot study identified priorities for local action. National programme implementation must involve integral quality assurance mechanisms from the outset.

Original publication




Journal article


Diabet Med

Publication Date





1066 - 1074


Anxiety, Diabetic Retinopathy, Humans, Mass Screening, Pilot Projects, Program Evaluation, Quality Assurance, Health Care, Retrospective Studies, Risk Factors, Risk Management