Hospital Admits Errors After Baby Boy Loses Eye Due To Delay In Cancer Diagnosis

Parents call for hospital to prove it has learnt lessons

11.08.2010

The parents of a Northampton boy, whose right eye had to be surgically removed after a two month hospital delay in diagnosing eye cancer, have today received a substantial five figure settlement.

Little Harvey Dellar, now aged 3, was just 12 months old, when in February 2008 his worried parents noticed that his right eye was turning inwards. They took him to an optician, who also expressed concerns about his condition and immediately referred him to Northampton Hospital.

However, by the time Harvey was finally offered an appointment by the hospital, almost three months later, a retinoblastoma was finally diagnosed. Unfortunately the cancerous tumour had spread so far that surgeons had no choice but to remove the eye.

Although Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust has now fully admitted liability, a medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell solicitors says the incident, which occurred due to a basic administration error, should never have been allowed to happen and the hospital must now learn lessons to protect patient safety.

Today's settlement, which was approved by the High Court in Birmingham, will be held in a trust fund for Harvey until he is older and provide any additional assistance he needs in later life.

Commenting on the ordeal, Harvey’s Mum, Caroline Haywood, age 33, explained: "My son may not have lost his eye if he had been treated and diagnosed more quickly, following the optician's concerns. Although the cancer would probably have meant his sight would have been affected, they could have saved the eye and avoided the need for an artificial eye in the future.

"Looking back at photos of Harvey taken at the time, we’ve noticed that when we took pictures of him using a flash, ‘red eye’  only shows on his good eye – his right pupil is white which we’ve since found out is a tell tale sign that there is something wrong with the retina and needs urgent investigation. I would urge other parents to be aware of this and if they have any misgivings trust their instincts and demand urgent medical assistance."

Tim Deeming, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors who represented the family, said: “Caroline’s decision to pursue legal action was taken not only to protect the interests of her son, but also to gain answers as to how such a fundamental error could have happened, in an attempt to safeguard other families from suffering the same fate.

“There was clearly a need to urgently investigate further and the hospital has accepted that in normal circumstances, Harvey should have been seen within two weeks of being referred. Sadly, the delay of almost 3 months in calling him for an appointment had catastrophic consequences.

"The Government watchdog, the National Patient Safety Agency, classifies basic errors as ‘Never Events’ meaning that they are wholly avoidable and should not be allowed to happen again. We are calling on the Trust to prove that it has learned lessons from its mistakes so that other patients are not put at risk in the future."