Sunderland sight-savers celebrate a decade of service

Gary Phillips, one of the first patients to attend the screening programme, and Helen Bone, Programme Lead for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust's Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme.
Gary Phillips, one of the first patients to attend the screening programme, and Helen Bone, Programme Lead for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust's Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme.
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A SIGHT-SAVING programme for patients on Wearside is celebrating a decade of service.

Launched in Sunderland in 2002, the scheme helps patients with diabetes to identify and treat diabetic retinopathy, which can result in sight loss.

So far it has screened about 20,000 patients across Wearside.

The service is mainly based The Galleries Health Centre, in Washington, but also delivers services in Monkwearmouth Health Centre and Houghton and Grindon Lane Primary Trust centres.

Another site will also be opening this summer at Pallion Health Centre.

Wearside resident Gary Phillips, was one of the first patients and has been screened every year since.

The 79-year-old, of Washington, said: “Ten years ago when I was invited to attend, I thought it was a good idea and now I’m really grateful for the service they offer.

“They let me know my results on the spot and it’s very reassuring to know that if they do find anything wrong then something will be quickly done.”

Diabetic retinopathy develops when blood vessels in the eye weaken and leak blood, leading to visual impairment and potentially blindness.

Every year about 4,200 people nationwide are at risk of blindness caused by the condition.

Helen Bone, programme lead for the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme, which is run by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, urged anyone with diabetes to get checked at one of their services.

She said: “Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in patients of a working age and it is essential that people with diabetes have their eyes checked every year.”

She also stressed that annual check-ups help get an early diagnosis to prevent severe eye damage and reduce the risk of sight loss.

Helen added: “Through our annual screening programme, using digital retinal photography, specially trained staff can detect any deterioration and refer patients into hospital eye services to help prevent long term eye damage.”

Diabetic patients are also at risk of foot complications and so in 2005 the scheme began offering dual foot and eye examinations in a single appointment.

Helen is delighted the scheme has run for so long, saying: “Our service has grown enormously over the last 10 years and we are proud to offer all of our patients an extremely effective and worthwhile clinical eye examination and foot assessment.”

Patients are referred into the screening programme by their GP ,but those wishing to get more information should call the scheme on 419 2430, email diabeticscreening@sotw.nhs.uk or text EYE followed by any message to 0779787440.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho