A charity which helps people impacted by diabetes in the island is worried about the lack of service available for diabetic retinal screening.

Diabetic retinopathy, which is the damage to back of the eye caused by diabetes, is the leading cause of preventable visual impairment.

Health Minister Lawrie Hooper explained in Tynwald last week that a screening programme will be phased in ‘before the end of the year’.

However, Diabetes Isle of Man says this isn’t good enough.

A spokesperson said: ‘It is a really worrying situation.

‘A lack of proper diabetic retinal screening means any deterioration of the eye’s condition, which can ultimately lead to sight-loss, is not being picked up in a timely manner amongst the near 6,000 people living with diabetes that we have on the island.

‘We appreciate there are plans to phase in a service by the end of the year, but what happens in the interim?

‘Screening numbers have never been as low as they are currently. We need a service, and we need it now.’

The minister said the gap in provision is ‘not a new issue’ but has been known about for ‘at least a decade’.

He added: ‘Work is well underway to agree the appropriate implementation and funding models to be able to add this service to the existing preventative care provided in the island,’ he said. ‘At this stage, I do not have a confirmed date.’

Diabetes Isle of Man recently completed a survey, in which 199 people took part of an estimated 6,000 in the island living with diabetes.

A total of 53 had had their eyes screened two or more years ago, with 23 having never had a screening.

The charity noted that despite several local opticians offering various paid for private services it’s unaware of anybody who is qualified to grade the images they are taking, and consequently refer those individuals onwards appropriately.

Of the responses given, nearly all named local opticians specify that these checks have been paid for privately by themselves.

Some respondents go on to state it has been years since they’ve been seen by an eye care specialist within a medical setting.

It concluded: ‘No pathways for specific eye conditions are currently available of the Isle of Man.

‘Patients with diabetic retinopathy are being referred as routine or urgent by email to the ophthalmology department, but the follow-up is not happening.’

In response to the survey by Diabetes Isle of Man, Mr Hooper said: ‘It does raise significant issues and concerns around the lack of the service.

‘We know it’s important and how much of a positive impact it can have for people who are losing their sight.’

The report added that according to an Isle of Man eye care strategy consultation document from 2017, the closing statement says a service had been commissioned to begin in April 2018.

‘We are now five years down the line, and a service still hasn’t been commissioned,’ the charity said.