Last week I performed my civic duty of attending the hospital diabetic eye clinic in order to reduce the average age of attendees by at least 30 years. There was also a bit of faffing round with my eyes which left me gobsmacked at quite how disjointed diabetes care can be.
My local PCT have a gem of a diabetic eye screening programme. It’s really good. And I’ve told them so. I am harassed by letter once a year to make an appointment with my choice of local optician from an approved list to have my diabetic eye check. Because opticians are businesses they have appointments outside of working hours so I can toddle along for my annual blinding session without having to take time off work.
The optician then does my regular eye test and takes photos of the back of my eye to check for any exploding blood vessels. If no fireworks show up on the photo it is archived and I’m released back into the community for another year. Several years ago a minor eruption was spotted in the far reaches of my eye so I was packed off to the experts at the hospital for them to have a look.
The hospital said it was a tiny blip, nothing to worry about, it was to be expected as I’ve had diabetes since the dark ages and everyone was happy (well not quite, but let’s not go there now).
Last week I was back at the hospital because the latest photos again show some minor fireworks. Following the obligatory let me dilate your pupils until they look like black holes and then shine a very bright light into them until you cry session, the Dr again concluded there was nothing to worry about. Being a nightmare patient I had questions. Were these the same fireworks as last time that are just simmering quietly in the background. Or have they got worse. Or are they brand new explosions on top of the old ones? Would the nice Dr please take me through the images of my eyes over the last few years so I could understand whether overall things were getting better, worse or staying the same.
You’d have thought I’d asked her to eat a live frog whilst dancing naked through A&E. Apparently I don’t need this information, I just need to control my blood sugars. I also need to repair my tongue because I nearly bit it off before I managed a polite response that I have excellent diabetes control, thank you for your concern, but I’d like to understand the long term journey my eyes are taking. Rather than just have a one off meaningless proclamation that everything is fine when there is obviously something there.
Then came the bit that did, for a little while, leave me speechless. The hospital Dr isn’t able to see the images that have been taken by the screening programme. So on the one hand the PCT have more photos of my eyes than I have holiday photos, and on the other the hospital are making clinical decisions about my eyes without the benefit of seeing their full technicoloured history.
I came home and emailed the medical director at the hospital, asking him to have a little think about how we could make diabetic eye care in our area a little more integrated.
I also popped in to see my optician and asked if he could spare a minute to access the image database and talk me through my eye changes over the last 5 years. Following numerous caveats about how he’s not as clever as the hospital Drs and I’m not to take any of this as advice or he’ll be shot, the lovely man did just that. And so I now have the information I wanted in the first place. The initial fireworks have disappeared completely. There are some other fireworks, which are no worse than the original and don’t appear to be getting any worse year on year. Thank you. Now I understand the size and scale of the problem. And I agree, no treatment required. Which means I can focus on trying to introduce primary care to secondary care and getting them to share their toys and play nicely together.