Compensation for cataract surgery

Mr Usher, in his early sixties, required surgery to remove cataracts in both eyes. His local NHS hospital had formed an agreement with Mount Stuart Hospital, a private provider of health services owned by the multi-national company Ramsay Health Care for NHS patients to receive treatment at the private clinic. Like many other patients for low-risk surgery, his care was therefore 'outsourced' to the private provider. Unfortunately, the procedure to remove his second cataract was not carried out properly, leaving Mr Usher with complications.

This case report sets out how Deborah Stone, a lawyer in Michelmores' Clinical Negligence team, helped Mr Usher secure £5,000 in compensation for his injuries. The name of the claimant has been changed.

Negligent cataract surgery

Mr Usher first underwent surgery in January 2014, in a procedure to remove the cataract in his left eye and to insert a lens into the eye to improve his vision – this procedure was a success. However, during the same procedure on his right eye six months later, he suffered serious pain and discomfort, describing the treatment as 'brutal.' The eye itself was left bruised after the procedure.

After the surgery, Mr Usher's vision was blurred and cloudy and his eyes were watery and sensitive to light. These complications stayed with him for around nine months, affecting his lifestyle and leaving him anxious about how his condition would develop.

To make matters worse, a month after the surgery Mr Usher received a letter from the hospital informing him that an overdose of antibiotic eye-drops had been administered during the procedure. This added to his apprehension, leaving him worrying about whether he would lose his eyesight and, therefore, his livelihood.

Making a compensation claim

Deborah Stone was able to secure compensation of £5,000 for Mr Usher, to reflect the pain and discomfort he had experienced, the complications that had followed the surgery and the anxiety that the treatment had caused him. She was able to obtain this payment without having to resort to drawn-out legal proceedings.

As with almost every outsourcing claim, the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), the legal arm of the NHS, stepped in to deal with the matter.

This confirmed that, even though Mr Usher was being treated at a private clinic, he remained an NHS patient throughout. The NHSLA apologised to Mr Usher on behalf of Ramsay Healthcare.

What is NHS outsourcing?

Nearly 20 patients were admitted to Mount Stuart for cataract removal surgery on the same day as Mr Usher and a number of these patients experienced complications including pain, worsened vision and headaches. A similar contract between the NHS' Musgrove Park Hospital and private provider Vanguard Healthcare Solutions Ltd, which carries out surgery from mobile units encamped in a hospital car park, left 31 patients with complications. In both cases, many of the patients were elderly and vulnerable.

NHS trusts often outsource services to private companies in an effort to reduce waiting times or make up for lack of resources at hospitals.

While this can be a good thing for those whose treatment is carried out properly, there are serious concerns that some private providers are not being sufficiently vetted or monitored and that outsourcing contracts may leave the NHS vulnerable to compensation claims for the negligence of the provider.