SERIOUS lessons need to be learned, says a local MSP, after a woman was left blind in one eye after an operation at Borders General Hospital.
NHS Borders was forced to apologise this week after the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman upheld three complaints and made five recommendations to the health board surrounding the case.
MSP Christine Grahame hopes the incident leads to changes at NHS Borders.
The SNP member said: “Incidents like this dent the trust we have in clinicians and in the complaints process, and we need assurances that serious lessons have been learned, for the sake of the distressful experience of this patient and so it is not repeated.”
The woman, named Mrs C by ombudsman Jim Martin, had attended the BGH in January 2010 for cataract surgery on her left eye.
When she woke up the next day she could not see. The consultant believing that he had nicked the sclera – the white area of the eye – with the needle containing anaesthetic during the operation, causing a haemorrhage.
After four further appointments, she was referred to the Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh in February 2010 for a specialist opinion, and Mrs C had surgery three more times, having been diagnosed with a vitreous haemorrhage and retinal detachment.
She has been left with limited vision of shade and outline only in her left eye. Another cataract operation in August 2010 on her right eye proved successful.
Mr Martin upheld that the use of a sharp needle anaesthesia was inappropriate and believed staff should have considered another method of pain relief.
He also criticised the “unreasonable and unexplained” delay of nearly four weeks in referring Mrs C to a specialist, while he deemed the post-operative care and treatment inadequate.
NHS Borders was slammed for its handling of the complaint, and Mr Martin said he is “concerned” the health board did not see the need to change their policies or conduct an investigation.
Among the recommendations to be met by the end of this month, Mr Martin has requested that staff be reminded of the risks of sharp needle anaesthesia, to refer patients for a specialist opinion as soon as possible and to conduct a review following an adverse incident.
He also asked for two apologises to be made for the botched surgery and the delay in making a specialist referral.
Ms Grahame added: “I am somewhat concerned on studying the ombudsman’s report that there was ‘an unreasonable and unexplained delay’ in referring the lady for a specialist opinion after her eye suffered damage during a cataract operation at Borders General Hospital.
“I have been told on numerous occasions by constituents that standards of care at the hospital are among the best in the country.
“While mishaps do occur from time to time, I find it surprising to read that an inappropriate and unreasonable procedure involving sharp needle anaesthesia was used in this case.
“I’m also disappointed that the handling of Mrs C’s complaint by Borders NHS Board was inadequate.
“I sincerely hope the hard lessons learned will ensure this kind of unfortunate incident is not repeated in the future.”
Commenting on the report’s findings, Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Borders told us: “We accept the recommendations of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in this case and we will be contacting Mrs C to offer our sincere apologies to her.
“We fully recognise, and regret, the aspects of Mrs C’s treatment and complaint handling which did not meet expected standards.
“NHS Borders takes every complaint very seriously and an action plan has been developed to implement the recommendations made in this case.
“The lessons we learn from this experience are being implemented and will provide us with valuable opportunity to improve our services.”