NHS payout for ex-nurse after laser eye surgery 'burned her retina'

A diabetic Clitheroe resident has been left almost blind in her right eye after permanent damage was caused to her retina during laser surgery.

Friday, 16th March 2018, 10:27 am
Updated Friday, 16th March 2018, 10:30 am
Lesley has to wear sunglasses at all times

Former nurse Lesley Horrocks (68), now suffers with significantly reduced vision in her right eye and is unable to see colours after it is claimed doctors at Royal Blackburn Hospital carried out laser surgery and burned her retina.

The mother-of-one received a five-figure settlement sum of £27,500 from the East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust in November 2017 after the issue of court proceedings.

Left with severely blurred vision, Lesley, a widow, is now forced to wear sunglasses at all times and says she feels robbed of her independence after being left too afraid to leave the house.

Lesley Horrocks

She explained: “As well as losing my sight, I really feel as though I’ve lost a lot of my independence and I find it really hard going out in public as I’m scared I’ll bump into people or have an accident. I struggle doing the things I used to love, such as walking my dog, reading, watching TV and even painting my nails."

Since March 1996, Lesley had been attending regular screenings to check her vision as she suffered from diabetes. In May 1998, it was recommended that she undergo laser eye surgery at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital because leaking and bleeding had been spotted behind her eye. From 1998 to 2003, Lesley underwent laser surgery three times to both of her eyes at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, which were successful. She was then monitored regularly over the next eight years and was told no further treatment was deemed necessary.

In October 2011, Lesley was transferred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital for her regular checkups. One year later she was told she should have more laser eye surgery on her right eye to stem the bleeding at the back of her eye.

The surgery took place on November 6th 2012, and Lesley was told to return to the hospital six weeks later for a follow up. Just two months later, a further review of her condition found that the sight in her right eye was worsening and another session of laser surgery was recommended. This took place on February 22nd, 2013 to reduce the risk of her losing sight in her eye, but it was noted that there was risk of damage to her central vision.

Lesley Horrocks

Lesley’s sight usually returned within a few hours after previous surgeries, but this time was different. Her vision remained blurred and she could not see anything out of the centre of her eye. The surgery should have been routine, particularly as Lesley had been through it on a number of occasions previously, without any issues. But, she quickly realised that her sight was not returning to normal.

Lesley said: “I was really concerned that my vision wasn’t coming back after the surgery. I knew that it would be blurry for a few hours after the treatment, as that had been the case after every other procedure I’d had. But as the days passed by, I was really struggling to see anything out of my right eye –there was a grey patch across the centre of my vision that wouldn’t shift.”

Six days later when she attended her routine check-up, her vision still remained blurred and there had been no improvement since the laser surgery This was still the case during additional follow-ups on March 7th and March 13th, 2013.

Almost two months after the surgery had been carried out, it was finally discovered that a deep collection of blood vessels had formed, and permanent damage had been caused to Lesley’s eye. It was recommended that she undergo a cycle of injections into her right eye to deal with the haemorrhage and restore her vision – one injection would be administered every month for three months.

Lesley explained the pain was excruciating: “Each injection was incredibly excruciating – I can’t really put the pain into words it was that horrific. I was so nervous about having the injection and I was told I needed more anaesthetic drops to numb the pain than any other patient. I couldn’t see the needle, but I could definitely feel the pressure of it going into my eye and could feel a severe, stabbing pain. I actually told the doctors after the second one that I couldn’t have any more as the pain was just too much, but I was advised to continue as it was the only way to get my vision back.

“But despite having the full course of injections, I didn’t see any improvement and I started to face the realisation that the damage was probably going to be irreversible.”

Trying to remain optimistic, Lesley began another course of injections in June 2013. The sixth and final injection was administered to her eye in August 2013, but again she saw no improvement to her sight. As the pain was intolerable, she declined to have any more injections and her condition is now simply being monitored every couple of months.

Since the surgery in February 2013, her vision has remained the same and she is unable to focus on objects in the distance or up close, despite experiencing no issues with her left eye. She now has to be careful when going up and down stairs as she is unable to focus on the steps properly, which increases the chance of her suffering a fall.

Lesley contacted legal experts Fletchers Solicitors to bring a claim against East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust to ensure this would not happen again. It was alleged that the Trust failed to apply the laser photocoagulation with sufficient care, and doctors failed to apply test exposures before carrying out the surgery which caused the macular haemorrhage (burning to retina) and permanent damage.

Dr Damian Riley, medical director for ELHT, said: “We aim to provide a safe, personal and effective service to all our patients. For the vast majority of the 700,000 people we treat each year, that is the case. Unfortunately, on a very small number of occasions things don’t go as expected. Here at ELHT, we place great importance on learning from mistakes, and we proactively share that learning with staff throughout the Trust. We wish Ms Horrocks well in the future”

Lesley added: “I wished I’d learned to drive and now my chances of ever doing that have been taken away. I have to rely a lot on my son to get me to hospital appointments and do my shopping. He’s been a godsend over these past few years, but it really hasn’t been easy on the both of us.

“I’m extremely thankful for the support that I received from Fletchers Solicitors. I was fine before I had the final laser surgery and I knew something wasn’t right after it had been done."

Fiona Swarbrick, senior solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors, said: “Losing your sight would be an extremely daunting experience for anyone – we rely on our eyes for so much. For Lesley, this has been particularly difficult for her, especially given that she was unsure about going ahead with the final laser surgery in the first place. We’re just glad that the resolution of her case has allowed her to move on and get her life back on track. We hope that the compensation can go some way towards helping heal the pain that has been caused.”