Berwick diabetic retinopathy screening

Craig Bell, director in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, explains why his practice’s diabetic retinopathy screening is the best thing he’s ever done professionally.

Craig, a dispensing optician and contact lens optician, says they’ve never looked back since they secured a contract for diabetic retinal screening (DRS) in 2012.

The NHS contracts a company called EMIS Care to conduct diabetic retinal screening, and they subcontract to us because Berwick is geographically quite remote,’ explains Craig. ‘The contract came about more centrally through Specsavers, which agreed to conduct DRS for EMIS Care in appropriate locations.’

Previously, the DRS programme visited Berwick Infirmary just two days a month. Patients had to book weeks in advance and there was a high “no show” rate.

Craig says: ‘We felt that this was all a bit impersonal and not really patient-centred.

‘We took the booking programme in-house, so we had control of the clinics. We endeavour to open our clinics seven days a week and the patient can select a time that’s best for them, including late nights on Saturdays and Sundays. We can even do walk-in appointments if it suits the patient. We operate 30-minute clinics, which gives us a bit more time to discuss diabetes, a patient’s medication and lifestyle factors like smoking.’

The store has about 100 DRS patients a month, and Craig says many go on to become customers.

‘The DRS programme has actually improved our customer base because we take our time with the patients and they’re impressed with the service they’re getting. It’s common for them to say they’ll transfer to us and have their future eye tests with us as well as their diabetic screening.’

He is enthusiastic about the DRS programme. ‘It’s been one of the best contracts that we’ve had’. 

He adds: ‘Offering this service enhances our reputation as clinicians and our reputation in the community – and in such a small community as Berwick, reputation is everything.’

Craig’s top tips for success

  • Have the mentality of ‘yes’. It’s sometimes difficult to say yes to everything but try to start from that premise. Think, ‘How can we accommodate that request?’
  • Encourage your staff to go as far as they want to go. There’s a lot of staff training going on here, including an optical assistant who’s doing an EOS diploma, and an optometrist who’s just taken her Independent Prescribing exam.
  • Remember that nothing beats word-of-mouth recommendations.

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