Diabetes screening fails to materialise

A plan to screen for eye disease in people with diabetes has failed to materialise five years after the HSE identified it as a priority.

Under the National Diabetes Programme, eye screening (or retinopathy screening) was due for roll-out in 2011. The deadline was then pushed back to 2012.

The delays are in the face of the substantial cost to the State of vision impairment.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland ‘Cost of Sight Loss’ Report 2010- 2020 estimates the cost of vision impairment to the State was €386m in 2010, set to increase to €449m by 2020.

In terms of total economic cost, the report found the average cost of individual blindness in 2010 was €62,270 compared to €9,533 for mild and moderate vision impairment.

The significant difference in cost supported the need for interventions to prevent those with mild and moderate vision impairment from becoming blind, the report said.

Despite the economic argument and the long-term health benefits of screening, the HSE remains unable to give a launch date for its National Retinopathy Screening Programme.

A spokesperson said its introduction was a “complex process” but that “many of the elements are at an advanced stage”, including the recent appointment of contracts to Global Diagnostics (Ireland) Ltd to provide digital photography, and grading services for the screening of diabetic retinopathy, following a recent EU tendering process. The quality assurance standards will be issued next month.

“Whilst I can’t give you a precise launch date, it is the intent that the national diabetic retinopathy screening programme will start in coming months,” said the spokesperson.

In the face of delays, the Diabetes Services Implementation Group in Cork and Kerry developed their own interim retinopathy screening initiative in 2011.

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