NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme recognises Professional Certificate

The College of Optometrists and Public Health England have mapped the College-accredited Professional Certificate in Medical Retina to the new level three Diploma for Health Screeners (Diabetic Eye). The alignment will allow optometrists who study for the updated Professional Certificate in Medical Retina to cover all requirements for the level three Diploma for Health Screeners (Diabetic Eye), with the exception of the diabetic retinopathy imaging unit, without carrying out the majority of the NHS England diabetic eye screening programme (DESP) training.

Jackie Martin, director of education at the College of Optometrists explains, “This is a great development for those who complete the Professional Certificate in Medical Retina. Optometrists with our revised qualification will be automatically exempt from the majority of the NHS England DESP training. It means if you have the revised College-accredited qualification, and you are working where optometry-based diabetic retinopathy screening programmes are commissioned, you could be part of the local service pathway with a qualification specifically aimed at optometrists, rather than completing a course designed for a range of healthcare professionals. We’re expecting that this alignment will make the Professional Certificate more attractive to a range of optometrists; those practising in areas where DESP schemes are commissioned, using optometrists and hospital optometrists looking to get involved with secondary and arbitration grading and optometrists who have an interest in medical retina and diabetic retinal imaging.”

Patrick Rankin, national programme manager of the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening (NDESP) said, “NDESP are pleased to have worked in collaboration with the College to provide this additional route for optometrists to work within the Screening Programme. It recognises the key role optometrists continue to have in the provision of the screening programme whilst also acknowledging their role as independent regulated practitioners. Diabetic eye screening reduces the risk of sight loss among people with diabetes by detecting diabetic retinopathy early when treatment is most effective. Thanks in part to the screening programme, diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in England. We look forward to working closely with the College on future projects to further contribute to the role of optometry within the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme.”

The Professional Certificate in Medical Retina is part of a growing collection of higher qualifications developed by the College in order to enable optometrists to provide extended services in key areas such as contact lens practice, glaucoma, low vision and paediatric eye care. Courses are undertaken on a part-time basis and are designed to fit with life in a busy practice or hospital department.

Optometrists interested in enrolling to complete the revised Professional Certificate in Medical Retina should contact one of the three providers of this qualification for more details about when the revised version will be available. For optometrists who already have this qualification there may be opportunities to upgrade to the new version with the relevant training provider.