The backs of buses will be used by a North East NHS trust to encourage people with diabetes to attend eye screening appointments.

About 43,000 people in County Durham and Darlington are known to have diabetes, a condition which puts them at risk of a number of complications. 

These include serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts which, if undiagnosed or untreated, can lead to vision loss and even blindness.

Anyone with type one or type two diabetes living in County Durham and Darlington, is offered regular eye screening which can identify eye complications early on, before symptoms start – giving the best chance of effective treatment. 

Unfortunately, a large number of people – about 2,400 - don’t attend their eye screening appointments, even though these could save their sight. 

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has now created a campaign to appear on the rear of buses, bus shelters and in Durham Bus Station, promoting the importance of attending diabetic eye screening appointments.  The adverts have the phone number to book an appointment and a QR code to a video link for more information. 

Angela Ellis, diabetic eye screening programme manager at County Durham and Darlington said: "Eye complications are linked to both Type one and Type two diabetes and tend to develop gradually, over time.

"Often patients aren’t aware they have a problem until they begin experiencing symptoms – which can mean they already have an irreversible deterioration in their sight. 

"Our screening takes a thorough look at the back of the eye, which is where issues often start.  Screening can detect problems early so treatment can begin. 

"Patients are invited for eye screening every year until they have two consecutive normal results and then they are seen every two years.

"Patients who have diabetic changes in their eyes will be invited into screening more regularly to be closely monitored and then referred to an Ophthalmology department, for treatment, where required.

"It is also important for any pregnant patients who have type one or type two diabetes to have regular eye screening checks because serious eye problems are greater in pregnancy. Ladies with gestational diabetes do not require screening as this resolves following delivery.

"We hope this advertising campaign over the next few weeks will encourage patients to consider the importance of attending their appointment and prompt friends and family to check their loved ones attend and support them to do so. 

"Around eight per cent of appointments are wasted every day because people don’t attend – and don’t let us know. 

"That’s not only a huge number of wasted appointments, those patients are also putting their sight at risk. The appointment lasts approximately 30 minutes and involves having drops put into the eyes which can sting – but for no longer than a few seconds. 

"The vision becomes blurry and, therefore, patients are not to drive after their appointment (for a minimum of four hours) and therefore it is important to arrange a lift. You may experience light sensitivity so sun glasses are recommended for comfort. The eye screening picks up problems that can then be treated to prevent further deterioration. 

“We’re also concerned about the number of children who don’t attend for their appointments.  When children with diabetes reach the age of 12, they are referred to us for monitoring but a large number of them aren’t brought to their appointments, putting them at risk of a lifetime of eye problems that could be avoided.

“Over the years there have been huge advances in the care given to patients with diabetes – in particular the very important self-monitoring of blood sugar levels. Type one diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin and type two diabetes results from insufficient production of insulin.

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"Both require management of blood sugar levels and both require regular eye screening.  One of our concerns is that not attending eye screening reflects a poorer commitment to managing diabetes generally and poor management of diabetes overall brings significant risk of associated complications.  If patients attend eye screening we can support the management of their diabetes overall.

"We run screening clinics from ten locations across County Durham and Darlington meaning patients rarely have to travel far.  We urge anyone who doesn’t attend their appointments to do so or get in touch to arrange one – simply ring: 01325 342113."