PHA launches consultation into diabetic eye screening programme

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A public consultation will begin today into the current Northern Ireland Diabetic Eye Screening Programme.

The current model has been reviewed and is set to be modernised in line with national standards.

Acknowledging the need to review the current model Dr Adrian Mairs, Acting Director of Public Health, Public Health Agency, said:

“There are several drivers for change including the challenge of the increasing size of the population requiring diabetic eye screening, which has almost doubled in the last decade. We also need to improve the programme’s ability to meet the nationally recommended standard of a 12-month screening interval. That means 12 months between consecutive screens being completed.

“The current mobile model relies heavily on delivering screening at individual GP practices. With increasing pressures on primary care this mobile model is unlikely to be sustainable into the future and change is necessary to ensure we are meeting recommended standards.”

The Public Health Agency said:

"Diabetic eye disease is one of the leading causes of blindness in people of working age in the UK. The Northern Ireland Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (NIDESP) aims to detect diabetic eye disease at an early stage and prevent sight loss in those with diabetes aged 12 years and over in Northern Ireland. "

"It is important for patients with diabetes to attend a diabetic eye screening test as this is not routinely covered as part of a normal eye test with an optometrist."

"As part of this modernisation project, the model for delivering the screening programme has been reviewed. The Project Board would like to hear your views and feedback on proposals to change how the service is delivered. "

"These are being sought through a public consultation that will take place over 12 weeks from 7 January to 29 March 2019."

"Further detail including the consultation document, summary and a link to the consultation questionnaire is available at"

At present the NIDESP is delivered via a mixed model. In the Western Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) area, screening is delivered at six fixed health and social care sites.

In all other areas of Northern Ireland (Belfast, South Eastern, Southern and Northern HSCT) a mobile service is provided by screener/graders, who visit approximately 280 individual GP practices to host screening.


Dr Tunde Peto, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Queen’s University Belfast and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Clinical Lead for the NIDESP commented:

“In line with the rest of the UK, the Diabetic Eye Screening Programme in Northern Ireland must be able to introduce visual acuity testing as well as the variable screening interval which has been recommended by the UK National Screening Committee."

"A variable screening interval would reduce the frequency of screening to once every 24 months for those at lower risk of diabetic eye disease and requires confidence of being able to maintain the screening intervals. Change is needed to implement these improvements.”

This consultation process offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to consider and comment on the three shortlisted model(s) for service delivery. The programme is seeking feedback from stakeholders on the advantages and disadvantages of these options, and which key issues should be taken into consideration when implementing a new model.

Responses can be completed on the Citizen Space consultation website at

If you require the documents in another format or language please contact the Public Health Agency on 0300 555 0114 and ask for Claire Armstrong or alternatively email  

Written responses should be sent to: Consultation on Future Model for NI DESP, Public Health Agency, 9th Floor, Linum Chambers, 2 Bedford Square, Belfast, BT2 7ES.


Several engagement events are also taking place. These include information sessions which are open to the public and all other interested parties. These will provide individuals/groups with an opportunity to book a 30 minute appointment to meet with a small panel from the DESP modernisation project team to discuss the consultation, provide feedback and seek clarification on any issues.


These will be held on:

  • Friday 18 January 2019, Belfast Central Mission, Grosvenor House, 5 Glengall Street, Belfast, BT12 5AD. 10am­–7pm

  • Monday 28 January 2019, Omagh Community House, 2 Drumragh Avenue, Omagh, BT78 1DP. 10am–7pm

  • Monday 7 February 2019, (venue tbc)

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