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Delay In GP Referral: Claimant Loses Eyesight

Doctor speaking to patient
24th April 2015

Failure by a GP to refer a patient with an eye problem led to the permanent loss of sight. It was also found that that one of the GPs had later altered their clinical notes.

Following two successful operations for cataracts a few years earlier, the claimant had begun to notice a deterioration of vision in the left eye, for which glasses were prescribed by an optometrist. However, using the glasses did not improve the claimant’s eyesight, nor the use of eye drops prescribed by the GP on the first visit.

Just seven days later, the claimant returned to the doctor’s surgery only to be seen by a different GP who noticed that the left eye appeared to be cloudy and arranged for the claimant to be examined by an eye specialist. While waiting for the referral appointment, the claimant suffered a complete loss of vision in the left eye and an ‘urgent referral’ to a specialist eye hospital had to be made by the GP.

Eyesight could have been saved...

Eye tests carried out at the hospital revealed that the reason the claimant had suffered a loss of vision was because the retina had become detached almost a month  earlier. The patient also suffers with diabetes, which is known to cause an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. The failure to detect the detached retina and the subsequent delay in being referred now meant that the damage could no longer be repaired, leaving the claimant permanently blind in the left eye.

During the claim proceedings, it was shown that the claimant’s vision could have been saved if referral to an eye specialist had taken place earlier to enable prompt diagnosis and urgent medical treatment to be given. The claimant has also been left “living in constant fear” of becoming totally blind in the future if vision starts to fail in the right eye too.

The early symptoms of a detached retina, which can be overlooked or misdiagnosed is the seeing of “flashing lights” also associated with migraine headaches, retina damage caused by diabetes and confusing glaucoma with age-related macular degeneration.