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BACKGROUND: The NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme aims to reduce the risk of sight loss among people with diabetes in England by enabling prompt diagnosis of sight-threatening retinopathy. However, the rate of screening uptake between practices can vary from 55% to 95%. Existing research focuses on the impact of patient demographics but little is known about GP practice-related factors that can make a difference. AIM: To identify factors contributing to high or low patient uptake of retinopathy screening. DESIGN AND SETTING: Qualitative case-based study; nine purposively selected GP practices (deprived/affluent; high/low screening uptake) in three retinopathy screening programme areas. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients, primary care professionals, and screeners. A comparative case-based analysis was carried out to identify factors related to high or low screening uptake. RESULTS: Eight possible factors that influenced uptake were identified. Five modifiable factors related to service and staff interactions: communication with screening services; contacting patients; integration of screening with other care; focus on the newly diagnosed; and perception of non-attenders. Three factors were non-modifiable challenges related to practice location: level of deprivation; diversity of ethnicities and languages; and transport and access. All practices adopted strategies to improve uptake, but the presence of two or more major barriers made it very hard for practices to achieve higher uptake levels. CONCLUSIONS: A range of service-level opportunities to improve screening attendance were identified that are available to practices and screening teams. More research is needed into the complex interfaces of care that make up retinopathy screening.

Original publication




Journal article


Br j gen pract

Publication Date





e484 - e492


diabetic retinopathy, interprofessional relations, mass screening, primary care, qualitative research, Aged, Diabetic Retinopathy, England, Female, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Health Promotion, Health Services Accessibility, Humans, Male, Mass Screening, Middle Aged, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Primary Health Care, Qualitative Research, State Medicine