About SCONe

In Scotland, 1300 optometrists in 900 practices are capturing millions of retinal images per year, representing a rich resource to innovate eye healthcare and research. The first aim of SCONe is to collect these images to evaluate early macula changes in AMD.

The SCONe team represents clinicians, academics, NHS, CSO, Scottish Government and charities.

The ambition is to collect, classify, and curate a community-acquired retinal image research resource in Scotland to enable early identification of eye disease, improve clinical outcomes and uncover novel biomarkers predictive of ocular and systemic diseases. 

Professor Baljean DhillonProfessor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, The University of Edinburgh

Why Scotland?

scone eye

In 2006 the General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract was introduced that included NHS funded routine eye examinations and the provision of high-resolution retinal cameras for all optometrists.

In Scotland there are retinal images currently stored in community practices dating back more than a decade. The first aim of SCONe is to gather retinal images captured in community optometry practices in order to evaluate early macula changes in AMD.

Colour fundus photograph with macular drusen - an early indicator of AMD.

Building the first dataset describing all stages of AMD...

Data accumulated through SCONe could be used for:

  • Epidemiological studies to quantify incidence/prevalence of AMD in Scotland to inform healthcare policy makers to channel resources to communities experiencing high demand.
  • Valuable data needed for the development of new technologies that can aide primary care providers to detect and monitor early AMD (e.g. automatic drusen detection and quantification).
  • Inform service improvements for optometrists such as triage prioritisation and to inspire patient-pathway re-design.
  • Research into the pathophysiology of AMD progression, other chronic eye diseases (e.g. glaucoma) and biomarker discovery (e.g. Alzheimer's disease).
  • Teaching, such as feedback for referring practitioners, clinical education, course content and multiprofessional learning resources.


The National Safe Haven

SCONe's team of optometrists, ophthalmologists and researchers are working together with IT experts to securely transfer retinal images captured in participating optometry practices to the eDRIS National Safe Haven. The National Safe Haven is a secure storage facility run by Public Health Scotland.  Data will not be shared outwith this secure storage facility, and Public Health Scotland will control who has access to the data. 

At no point will any personal identifiable data be shared with researchers.  

SCONe follows the strictest governance protocols. In October 2021, SCONe received approval from NHS Scotland's Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health and Social Care to collect retinal images from participating optometry practices and securely transfer these to the National Safe Haven. 

All research conducted using the SCONe research resource will be subject to stringent ethics approvals. 

You can view a statement of our commitment to upholding the highest levels of data privacy here.

Get Involved...

The SCONe team are committed to building a large retinal image research resource that is collaborative, secure, and with controlled access. In December 2022, the Scottish Government Directorate of Primary Care "highly encouraged" optometrists to participate in this "globally important study" in PCA(O)2022(07).

If you are an eye care professional and would like to get involved, please get in touch.