For World Sight Day, the medical negligence team reflects on the devastating consequences of avoidable sight loss, and how legal action can improve safety for patients on a national level. We hope that by increasing awareness, more patients will understand how bringing a claim can help prevent others from experiencing similar avoidable injuries.
How can legal action improve patient safety?
The medical negligence team at Moore Barlow has extensive experience with ophthalmology compensation claims.
In 2017 we were approached by a mother of three who had lost her sight as a result of delays within the glaucoma monitoring clinic at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
Sight loss at any time is devastating; to lose one’s sight while caring for young children is a catastrophe. Our client was pregnant at the time of her visual decline and, sadly, when she gave birth she was never able to see her daughter’s face.
As part of the process of obtaining medical records from the Trust, we requested all risk management documentation. The Trust’s risk management papers included a Serious Incident Report which identified our client and 15 other people who had suffered avoidable sight loss as a result of delays in diagnosis and treatment. We referred the case to the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) who conduct independent investigations into patient safety concerns in NHS-funded care. We asked the HSIB to consider looking at ophthalmology delays across the country and it agreed to undertake a full investigation. (As of October 2023, the HSIB has become the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB)).
What were the outcomes?
The HSIB published its report in January 2020 on the ‘Lack of timely monitoring of patients with Glaucoma’. It found that there is inadequate capacity in the Hospital Eye Service and made seven specific recommendations to bodies including the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, NHS England, NHS Improvement, NHS Digital and the International Glaucoma Association.
The case also attracted media attention on the BBC, and sparked concerns around the thousands of other patients who had not been seen as quickly as needed. Despite the seven-figure settlement achieved for our client, it is never a “win” to suffer avoidable sight loss.
Moore Barlow’s opinion
For years there has been immense financial constraints on the NHS, which will inevitably impact the healthcare services provided by NHS Trusts. We have always appreciated this in the context of litigation. However, the consequences of failing to provide healthcare at the required standard may be avoided and the damage caused by delays can be permanent and life changing. Sadly, for those with preventable sight loss, compensation for medical negligence is no comparison to losing their eyesight.
How Moore Barlow can help
At Moore Barlow, our broader determination is always to support the NHS and other healthcare providers to actively improve patient care and safety, and to minimise the chances of similar avoidable injuries occurring again to someone else. When things do go wrong, we do all we can to help our clients secure a better future by accessing the therapies etc. that will help to improve their quality of life.
Our experienced medical negligence team includes lawyers dual-qualified as nurses and doctors with many years’ experience of working in the NHS and in bringing sight loss claims whether against hospitals, GP’s or other healthcare providers. We have a consistently strong track record and are regarded as leaders in the field.