NHS launches sight-saving clinics for folks with diabetes in Watford


Patient Andrew Griffin at his appointment for a diabetic retinal screener with graduate Jenna Littlechild

Submitted by Hayley Sykes

The Hertfordshire Community’s NHS Trust (HCT) has established a series of super clinics for people with diabetes at the Stanborough Conference Center in Watford, Hertfordshire, providing potentially eye-friendly screening for diabetic retinopathy to more than 150 people on site every day.

The West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Program (WHDESP) looks for eye diseases caused by diabetes and is an important annual checkup for all people with diabetes 12 years and older.

Eye conditions caused by diabetes are known as diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss if not detected early. Diabetic eye screening is a quick and easy exam.

Patients are guided through an eye test and a diabetic eye screener takes photos of the fundus (retina) with a fundus camera. This does not replace the appointment of a routine optician.

The Diabetic Eye Screening Super Clinics are a new initiative by WHDESP (HCT) that was run in May and June to ensure that all patients can be regularly screened for coronavirus-safe screening as soon as possible.

In the new location of the Stanborough Conference Center, a team of six diabetic eye examiners can see up to 160 pre-booked patients between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. Additional super clinics are planned every month, and letters of invitation to attend will be sent to patients. These appointments are only possible by invitation, as the clinic cannot accept walk-ins.

Tinu Fakoya, HCT Program Manager at WHDESP, said, “We are excited to open these new superclinics for diabetic eye screening in Watford, and thank the Stanborough Park Conference Center for their support and our team for developing this innovative idea.

“With these super clinics, we can see many more patients in a day than our usual clinics. The spacious, well-ventilated location helps our patients and staff to be COVID-safe.”

Dr. Sadhana Kulkarni, operational clinical director of the West Herts Diabetic Eye Screening Program (WHDESP), said, “People with diabetes have a higher than average risk of developing a vision-threatening eye disease.

“For us, diabetic eye exams are the fastest and easiest way to identify problems early, and then we can take action to prevent vision loss.” Our trained eye exams can identify a potential problem before a patient even realizes any difference to theirs It is very important for all people with diabetes to attend their screening by invitation, even if they have no concerns. “When you receive your letter of invitation, please reply as soon as possible. We look forward to many familiar faces.”

Good news Hertfordshire:

The first patient to walk through the doors of the first super clinic at the Stanborough Conference Center on Tuesday May 4th was Andrew Griffin, 73, of Watford, who was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago. He said, “Everything went so smoothly for my appointment, it’s a brilliant facility and it’s very efficient.

“I worry about my eyesight, especially as I get older, so it’s comforting to have these regular checkups.”

Eligible individuals with diabetes in Watford and the surrounding area who still require an annual assessment this year will be invited by the WHDESP in order of their risk priority.

For patients under the age of 18, this invitation is addressed to their parents or legal guardians. An appointment will be booked with you and you do not need to take any action before you receive the invitation letter. The clinics will run in May and June.

If you or a family member has diabetes and have questions or concerns about the condition, contact your GP or visit Diabetes UK for more information. Always call 999 in the event of a medical emergency.