Current UK NSC recommendations > Diabetic Retinopathy

The UK NSC recommendation on Diabetic Retinopathy screening in adults

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme recommended
Last review completed January 2016
Next review due in 2018/19
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For diabetics at low risk of sight loss, the interval between screening tests should change from one year to two years. The current one year interval should remain unchanged for the remaining people at high risk of sight loss.

Evidence to support continuation or cessation of existing screening programmes should be reviewed regularly. The process for this is currently being revised, which is why this topic does not currently have a review date. The new process will be published in due course. Each programme has an active portfolio of research, evidence and audit to support continual improvement. Find out more about diabetic retinopathy screening in England.


Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening recommended by UK NSC?

The recommendation to change from one year to two year screening intervals for people at low risk of sight loss is based on the following evidence:

  • following two successive clear diabetic eye screening appointments people with diabetes will be classed as being at low risk of developing sight threatening retinopathy
  • a large observational study was carried out which showed that it was safe to invite people in this low risk group every two years rather than annually. Screening this group less often not only releases capacity, but also lessens the inconvenience for this group of attending appointments every year
  • the study found that the current screening interval for people with a high risk of sight loss should remain annual

More about Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of blindness in the UK. Retinopathy means damage to the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish the retina, the tissues in the back of the eye that deal with light. Damage to these vessels causes blood leakage (haemorrhage), which may be small and confined to the retina or may extend forward into the jelly that fills the main cavity of the eye (the vitreous gel). This can seriously affect your vision.

» Read more about diabetic retinopathy on NHS Choices

Screening in the UK

Compare how screening is offered across the UK.


Action for Blind People
Association of British Clinical Diabetologists
Association of Optometrists
British Association of Retinal Screening
College of Optometrists
Diabetes UK
Faculty of Public Health
Foundation of European Nurses in Diabetes
Institute of Diabetes in Older People
Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust
International Diabetes Federation
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
National Diabetes Information Service
Primary Care Diabetes Society
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Ophthalmologists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
Young Diabetologists Forum

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

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