Eye patients `injured by private hospital'

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The Independent Online
TWENTY ELDERLY National Health Service eye patients sent to a private hospital in a drive to cut waiting lists suffered ill-effects because medical staff failed to check they were injecting them with the right fluid, a report published yesterday says.

Presenting the results of an eight-month inquiry at the Lewes headquarters of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority, John Wells-Thorpe said there was no danger that any patient would go blind after eye drops had been injected during "hastily" arranged cataract operations at Bupa's Gatwick Park Hospital, in West Sussex, due to a "misunderstanding" between nurses and the NHS surgeon.

The mistakes were made in February during cataract surgery on patients over 65 referred to Bupa by Brighton Health Care NHS Trust. Inadequate post-operative care meant the cause of the problem was only discovered in March.

Of 20 patients recalled, one-third had inflammation and corneal damage, and another third had swelling and clouded vision. Ten had since been discharged, seven showed signs of improvement and two had had corneal grafts. One had died of an unrelated condition.

Mr Wells-Thorpe said he would be passing 11 recommendations to the Department of Health to prevent similar errors. He said "the event was the result of a misunderstanding". The surgeon involved in the operations, Paul Brittain, has since been declared "safe" following examination of his clinical procedures by the Royal College of Ophthalmogists.

A Bupa spokesman said that compensation would be considered on an individual basis.