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Woman Left Partially Blind Following Hospital Errors

Expert Criticises ‘Poor Care By Inappropriate Staff’


A Worcestershire woman has been left partially blind after a hospital failed for four days to refer her for urgent specialist treatment.

A medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors has now called for a full-scale review of  procedures after a damning internal report by the Hospital’s own Trust admitted the incident happened due to  ‘poor care by inappropriate staff, who were taking decisions way out of their depth and remit.’

24 year old Claire Holmes from Hagley near Stourbridge, who at the time regularly wore contact lenses, began suffering pain in her right eye on 12th September 2008.

Over the next few days she sought help from Kidderminster Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit on four separate occasions. She was initially examined, on 13th September, by a nurse who told her she was suffering from a small scratch and prescribed eye ointment.

The following day she continued to be in terrible pain but, on phoning the hospital for advice, was told simply to continue using the ointment.

On 15th September Miss Holmes mother became so worried by her condition that she took her back to the unit. A nurse briefly examined Claire and prescribed a different type of ointment with instructions to persevere with the treatment for a further 24 hours.

By the morning of 17th September Miss Holmes was in agonising pain. There was a discharge from her right eye and she was no longer able to see out of it. Her father drove her back once more to the unit where she was finally seen by an ophthalmologist who urgently referred her to a specialist surgeon at Birmingham Midland Eye Centre.

There it was found that she had been suffering from an infective abscess of the cornea - a rare but recognised risk associated with wearing contact lenses. Despite the best efforts of clinicians, the infection had caused irreparable damage and as a result Miss Holmes has now lost 95% of the vision in her right eye.

Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust has now admitted liability and has fully accepted that had Miss Holmes’ condition been diagnosed earlier, prompt antibiotic treatment would have saved her sight. During its own internal investigations the Trust admitted that the incident was not isolated and had occurred as a result of nurses taking decisions ‘beyond the training and skills they possessed.’

Medical Negligence Lawyer Calls For Lessons To Be Learned

Tim Deeming, a medical law expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors said: “Claire was let down extremely badly by her local hospital. Whilst this condition is rare, had proper notice been taken of her repeated complaints, this tragic outcome could have been completely avoided.

“On two separate occasions Claire’s eye was examined, not with an ophthalmology slit lamp, but with a pen torch which in itself would have made it virtually impossible to reach the correct diagnosis.

“I very much hope that lessons will be learned as a result although we have yet to hear from the Trust how it intends to make the necessary changes.”

Miss Holmes explained: “Even though I was in the most indescribable pain I believed the nurses who told me to let the treatment take its course and it was nothing serious.

“I put my trust in them, but as a result of their mistakes I now have to face the fact that I will be partially blind for the rest of my life. This not only puts huge strain on my left eye but means I have very limited spatial awareness. I cannot judge distance well and even simple things like pouring a glass of water can cause problems.

“I just hope that the hospital has learned lessons from what happened and that the Trust has retrained those responsible so that no-one else has to suffer in the future.”