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Eye assessments by nurses questioned

16th December 2010

An eye specialist has issued a warning about nurses making decisions that go beyond their training.

Ophthalmologist Paul Chell spoke out after 24-year-old Claire Holmes from Worcestershire was left virtually blind in one eye.

She visited the minor injuries unit at Kidderminster hospital twice in 2008 and the nurses she saw prescribed ointments, but did not refer her case.

By the time an ophthalmologist saw her she had lost 95% of the sight in her eye.

Miss Holmes wore contact lenses, which some doctors believe can increase the risk of developing a corneal ulcer that destroys vision, as the lenses can scratch the cornea.

When she attended the hospital, Miss Holmes was given ointment but when she returned to the unit because of so much pain, she was told to persevere with the treatment.

But when Miss Holmes went back to hospital for a third time she was assessed by an ophthalmologist who diagnosed an ulcer and referred her to the Midlands Eye Centre in Birmingham.

Mr Chell - the clinical director of ophthalmology at Kidderminster General Hospital at the time - sent an e-mail to the chief executive John Rostill in which he said the case was indefensible.

Miss Holmes’ solicitors Irwin Mitchell, say if she had been seen by an ophthalmologist on the first day, she would not have lost her sight.

Mr Rostill said the trust recognised that Miss Holmes should have been referred to an ophthalmologist within 24 hours and it has now changed is approach for patients presenting with an eye problem.

 

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