Retinal Screening

About the Service

The West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) is part of a National programme dedicated to screening patients with diabetes in order to detect diabetic eye disease (retinopathy).

Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening condition that can affect anyone who has diabetes. It affects the retina at the back of the eye and is caused when the blood vessels become blocked, leak or grow haphazardly. You may not be aware of any changes to the retina until your vision has been impaired, at which point it may not be possible to completely restore your vision; this is why it is essential to have your eyes screened every year.

Regular annual screening enables the monitoring of any retinal changes with subsequent referral to the hospital eye service if required. The West Herts eye screening team is dedicated to making you feel comfortable and to ensure that you are kept fully informed at each stage of the screening process.

If you are worried about your eyes, you should see your doctor or optician for advice. 

West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Service information poster

Contact the service

Tel: 01442 285825 

Clinic Locations

How the Service is provided

The Diabetic Eye Screening Programme offers retinal screening to all people with diabetes in the West Hertfordshire catchment area, aged 12 and over. The programme is based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with screening clinics held at twelve venues throughout the area.

When you are diagnosed with diabetes, your GP will inform our programme; we will invite you to attend an eye screening appointment at a venue close to your home.

Should you prefer to attend an alternative venue, or change the date of your appointment, our team of administrators are here to assist you with any queries you may have.

Images taken of your eyes are reviewed by the grading team and the results are sent out within a few weeks to both yourself and your GP. If diabetic retinopathy is noted, a referral is made to your local hospital eye service.

Our team of qualified screeners, graders and administrators understand that the service we provide needs to be individual and take into account the psychological, social and geographical needs of our patients.

We are continually researching ways to improve the service we provide and welcome feedback from patients to help us achieve this.

Who is eligible for this Service

  • Patients with diabetes or a previous history of diabetes with a GP in West Hertfordshire

What will happen at your appointment

At the screening appointment the screener will check your sight on a letter chart (please bring your spectacles). Eye drops will be put into your eyes to dilate your pupils to enable high quality photographs of the retinae (back of the eyes) using a digital camera. Once your pupils are sufficiently dilated, usually after 20 minutes, two photographs are taken of each eye.

The photographs are analysed at our grading centre for any changes to the retinae which may require monitoring or treatment and will go through at least two grading processes to ensure accuracy before the results are sent to you and your GP.

Please note, the eye drops can be unpleasant for a few seconds and will temporarily blur your vision, possibly up to 3-4 hours. They will make your eyes sensitive to bright light, preventing you from reading or driving for the duration of the blurring. Due to the blurring of your vision it is important that you do not drive after your eye screening appointment.

Please click here for the Diabetic Eye Screening patient information leaflet. If you would prefer this in an ‘easy to read’ format, please click here.

Useful information

Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, therefore to reduce your risk of developing retinopathy, or to stop it from getting worse, research has shown the following aspects of good diabetic control to be of significant benefit:

  • good blood glucose control
  • good blood pressure – below 130/80 or less
  • total cholesterol – less than 4mmol/l

Eating a healthy balanced diet, losing weight (if necessary) and keeping active with regular exercise are important in the control of diabetes. If you smoke, it is advised you should try to stop – advice and support to help you stop smoking can be sought from the Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service. They can be contacted on 0800 389 3998 or text QUIT to 07800 001337

Leaflets and posters

The following information leaflets are available to download – they are also available in other languages if required:
Your guide to diabetic eye screening
Your guide to diabetic retinopathy
Closer monitoring and treatment for diabetic retinopathy
Information leaflet for pregnant patients

 The following useful documents, for both patients and healthcare professionals, can be downloaded: 
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for healthcare professionals 
Diabetic Eye Screening poster for display at your practice 
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients 
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients with background retinopathy 
Diabetic Eye Screening information sheet for patients with diabetic retinopathy


National Diabetic Eye Screening Programme

Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK Careline: 0345 123 2399

NHS Choices

FAQs regarding the diabetic eye screening service

How can I access the diabetic eye screening service?
Through your GP who will refer you to the programme, following which we will invite you for diabetic eye screening.

Do I still need to attend if an optician has looked at my eyes?
Yes, diabetic eye screening is specifically looking for changes caused by diabetes.

I am diabetic but have not received an appointment
Please contact your GP who will refer you for diabetic eye screening.

I am not/no longer diabetic but still receive appointments
Recent guidelines from the national diabetic eye screening programme advise that any patient who has ever had a definitive diagnosis of diabetes should continue to attend for routine eye screening

I am already attending a hospital for my eyes, do I still need to be screened?
You may still need to be screened if you are not being checked specifically for diabetic eye disease. Your hospital doctor should inform us if you do not need to be screened. When you have been discharged from the hospital eye service we will need to screen you again.

How long will the screening appointment take?
We advise patients to allow up to one hour for an appointment.

Can I choose a different venue?
Yes, we have 11 venues throughout West Hertfordshire – please inform our administrators of your preferred venue.

Can transport be arranged for me to attend my appointment?
Unfortunately we are unable to arrange transport for you. If you are eligible for NHS transport you can call Travelink on 0300 3032101. If you do not qualify there are a number of voluntary organisations who can provide transport to your appointment for a small fee. Our administration team can provide further details on request.

Making a Referral

Referrals to the eye screening programme should be made using the GP and DSN referral form or for pregnant patients, referrals can be sent by the following routes: 

By email:  

By fax: 01442 285858

By post:

Administrative Team 
Diabetic Retinal Screening Service 
Gossoms End Community Hospital
Victory Road 

Referral form
Referral form for retinal screening in pregnancy

Further Information

Closer Monitoring & Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes Eye Screening Information Leaflet

Diabetes Eye Screening Patient Presentation

Diabetes Eye Screening

diabetic eye screening information sheet for patients with background retinopathy

diabetic eye screening information sheet for patients

National Diabetes Eye Screening Programme