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New diabetic eye screening system built to cope with Scotland’s ‘unprecedented demand’

  • New £2.25m contract to provide diabetic eye screening in Scotland
  • Demand for service expected to increase by 50% within 20 years

Innovative technology providers Northgate Public Services and Health Information Systems (UK) Ltd (HISL) are to provide NHS Scotland’s national diabetic retinopathy eye screening IT system.

Running for 5 years and worth £2.25m, the new managed service contract provides for a single national system to support the annual retinal screening of over 300,000 people with diabetes.

Each of Scotland’s 14 Health Boards can tailor the system to meet the needs of their diabetic population, allowing greater flexibility in where and how the screening is provided.   

Due to start in 2017, the solution is designed to cope with Scotland’s future screening needs, with the number of diabetics in the country projected to grow by 50% to 480,000 by 2035. 

The new single national system, Vector, is hosted by NPS and developed by its partner HISL. It supports access from all clinic and hospital locations, and has the ability to allow users to work off-line in locations with poor network access such as the highlands, synchronising the data and images when the user returns to their local administration centre.

Alan Campbell, Head of Screening Services, Northgate Public Services, said:

“We are delighted to be supporting the NHS in Scotland and the Scottish Health Boards in delivering this critical component of Scotland’s National Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme. The importance of the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening programme cannot be underestimated as it can help prevent early loss of sight for people with diabetes.

“Our system ensures that retinopathy screening can be offered at many different locations and times, improving service accessibility and creating the best coverage possible.’’ 

Mike Black, Scottish Diabetic Retinopathy Screening (DRS) Collaborative Coordinator, NHS Highland, said:

“The DRS programme in Scotland is very pleased that NPS has been awarded as managed solution provider for our national IT system. We have the largest single DRS programme in the UK spread across a widely dispersed remote, rural and urban population. We needed a system that would support and give the flexibility to all 14 Health Boards in continuing to provide high standards for our patients.

“The Vector System was a clear leader in terms of what we were looking for, providing flexibility, agility, capability, capacity and of course affordability. Our programme has been in place for over 10 years now so we are very experienced in what we do and knew exactly what we wanted from our new system. NPS, HISL and the Vector IT system were our first choice.”

Steve Courtney, Chief Executive of Health Information Systems (UK) Ltd, said:

“HISL is very proud that our Vector DRS software application has been chosen for this highly important clinical programme. The ability of the application to help manage what is probably the largest and most complicated programme of its kind in the UK is testament to the flexibility of the software and its ease of use, as well as the comprehensive failsafe facilities. This contract includes the transfer of around 10 years of data from the existing system, as well as integration with the Scottish nation diabetes programme (SCI Diabetes), and auto grading software, with plans for further integration in the future.”

After diabetics have their eyes screened and photographed, clinic locations capture the images and store them against patient records. Each anonymised image is graded, and depending on the outcome of the first grading it can be escalated for further examination. The eye hospital also has access to the patient images.

A process is also in place to ensure more people take up of the system. Utilising the national Scotland diabetic register, the system presents the diabetics in geographically sorted lists to staff at administration centres who then use the system to create clinic locations and centres to which the diabetics will be scheduled for screening. It also facilitates the production of appointment letters and text reminders, which are sent out to individuals informing them of their clinic appointment.

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