Distraught Parents Call For Action After NHS Trust Staff Fail To Refer Their Son For Tests

Medical Law Experts Secure Settlement To Fund Future Treatment

11.07.2014

The parents of a young boy who they say was ‘robbed’ of his early childhood after medical staff failed to refer him for tests to discover the cause of his poor vision and learning development have called for increased awareness of the rare condition he was eventually diagnosed with.

Charlie and Tracy Wells, from Flackwell Heath in High Wycombe, pleaded with health workers several times to send their son Billy, who was born in April 2002, for medical tests when he was a toddler after noticing he was struggling with his, development and co-ordination.

But despite being born with a deteriorating eye condition known as hypermetropica amblyopia, it was not until Billy was five-years-old that he was eventually diagnosed by an optician, after a health visitor was ‘too busy’ and forgot to send the referral form for the appropriate tests.

Follow up medical appointments also then saw Billy diagnosed with Dyspraxia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Dyspraxia is a development co-ordination disorder (DCD) that affects motor skills and co-ordination, but can also affect speech, perception and articulation.

Billy’s parents instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to help their son and are speaking out for the first time after lawyers successfully secured a settlement from Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust. This will fund future occupational therapy, optical and physiotherapy costs and will be used to pay for extra tuition for Billy. 

The settlement followed an admission of liability from the Trust for breach of duty after expert evidence gathered by specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell found that the Trust failed to:

• Act on Billy’s parents’ concerns about his poor vision
• Refer Billy for a Griffiths assessment (which measures mental development in young children)

Expert Opinion
Billy’s family has been left devastated because his early childhood was severely hampered by the delay to diagnose and treat him, despite the family raising their concerns repeatedly with health professionals.

“Billy requires a lot of intensive treatment to help assist his development. The settlement will provide Billy with vital funding to assist with his treatment and provide future financial support.”

“We hope that lessons are learned by the Trust from Billy’s case and that all staff are adequately trained to ensure that children are given the appropriate tests to identify and treat health issues as quickly as possible.”
Jenna Harris, Associate
Billy’s parents noticed throughout his early years that he wasn’t developing as quickly as his three siblings and they expressed their concerns to their health visitor and also their GP. They were assured that he was fine and that he was just slower to develop then the others.

Billy would sit extremely close to the TV and used to cry for a bottle when it was in front of him, but he couldn’t see it. The turning point was after a family holiday to Disneyland in Paris when the family were looking through photos from the trip. Billy’s parents, Charlie and Tracy were very upset that Billy was not looking at the camera in a single photo and when they asked him why, he said he couldn’t see the camera. They immediately booked him for an eye examination which resulted in the diagnosis of hypermetropica amblyopia.

He was also diagnosed with Dyspraxia and ADHD after he was seen by an occupational therapist in 2007. 

Charlie, who is a full time carer for Billy and his wife said: "As a family we were heartbroken that Billy was left with undiagnosed conditions for so long and we feel that he was robbed of his early childhood. We raised our concerns with health visitors - on numerous occasions but we were simply told he was fine.

"It wasn’t until after we returned from a family holiday to Disneyland and we looked through our photographs, that we noticed that Billy wasn’t looking at the camera in any of the photos. When we asked him why he didn’t turn to look at the camera he said that he simply didn’t see where it was.

"This set alarms bells ringing and we immediately took him to the opticians for an examination. When we spoke to the optician about his results, the tests revealed his sight was very poor to the point where he could barely see anything at all. We were devastated and could not believe he had gone through so many years of his young life not being able to see properly.

"When we walked out of the opticians with Billy wearing his new glasses he asked me what a pigeon was as he had never seen one before – saying it was beautiful. Billy told me that he didn’t think his eyes were supposed to work, it was heartbreaking.

"When we spoke to our health visitor about Billy’s diagnosis, she told us that she had filled out the application form for the Griffiths test but never sent it off as she was overworked and Billy must have slipped through the net. I was upset that Billy spent years of his early life struggling when all he needed was a simple assessment which would have helped him get access to the right treatment.

"We are pleased that with help from our legal team at Irwin Mitchell that the case has now come to a close and Billy’s future quality of life is secured. However, we hope improvements are made in training and resource to help medical staff recognise the symptoms of hypermetropica amblyopia and refer other patients for the appropriate tests and treatment."