Too many Scots with diabetes are failing to attend check-ups that can save their sight, warn charities

8 May 2018
Source: RNIB Scotland

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The charities RNIB Scotland and Diabetes Scotland have been nominated for a major award for a campaign created to highlight the potential threat diabetes can pose to people’s eyesight.

But they warn that too many people living with the condition in Scotland are failing to attend vital eye-screening examinations that can pick up the first signs of problems.

Diabetic retinopathy, which affects the blood vessels in the eyes, is the leading cause of visual impairment among working age adults in Scotland.

Claire Fleming, communications manager for Diabetes Scotland, said: “According to the latest figures, almost 20 per cent of people in Lanarkshire alone eligible for diabetic retinopathy screening do not have any record of attending for the previous 15 months.

“However, eye check-ups are an essential part of their diabetes care. Screening can pick up early warning signs of damage to the eye so that people can get the treatment needed to prevent permanent damage.”

Across Scotland over 291,000 people are living with diabetes.

RNIB Scotland and Diabetes Scotland have been shortlisted for the Scottish Charity Awards and are urging their supporters to vote for them before May 18th. The award-winners will be announced in June.

Centre piece of the campaign was a 90-second film, ‘How Do You See Scotland’, narrated by Scottish actor and Hollywood star Brian Cox CBE, who is himself diabetic.

The film opens with spectacular aerial images of Scottish scenery that gradually become obscured by dark blotches, mimicking the effects of diabetic retinopathy. In his narration, Cox stresses that attending regular eye-screening appointments is vital in helping people with diabetes to prevent sight loss.

The film was shown in 76 Scottish cinemas during National Eye Health Week last September, widening the campaign’s demographic by 24,500. An estimated 2.4 million people saw the film on cinema screens, social media and the charities’ websites in total.

“We raised awareness of this serious, often symptomless, condition and how permanent sight loss can be prevented through screening,” said Ms Fleming. “Health messages can sometimes struggle to capture attention. Our film sought to subvert the familiar tourism advert, catching audience expectations off guard when the scenery becomes blotchy, before asking ‘How do you see Scotland?’. We were very lucky to have the wonderful Brian Cox as narrator, who is a long-time supporter of Diabetes Scotland.”

In concert with the film, the campaign also released a series of still photographs of iconic Scottish landmarks obscured by the effects of retinopathy, targeted at local newspapers and websites. The same distorted scenery theme was used on postcards sent to 960 health practices throughout Scotland. The campaign closed with a Members Debate in the Scottish Parliament at which Health Secretary Shona Robison spoke.

Ian Brown, senior communications officer with RNIB Scotland, said: “It’s always welcome when two charities can join forces to promote a common area of concern. And diabetic retinopathy is a major priority in saving people’s sight in Scotland. It’s wonderful to be shortlisted for a Scottish Charity Award. We had such amazing help and co-operation from others in making and showing our film.”

You can vote for RNIB Scotland and Diabetes Scotland’s campaign to win a Scottish Charity Award at


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