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Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 2:09 pm
by Paul Morgan
rosemary johnson wrote:taking legal action is a good way to make money for lawyers.

Action against the optician?
What would you achieve by it??
A lot of hassle, legal bills, worry......

I am afraid I have to disagree with many of the points that are made specifically in the quote above and in this thread.

If you GENUINELY feel that you have been treated badly, and the professional involved has caused you harm or neglected you in some way, then you have every right to consider and investigate the possibility of legal action against them.

The vast majority of medical professionals provide a superb service, and they are well paid for it - rightly. They also benefit from thousands of pounds worth of training which puts them in a position to earn an excellent salary. If they are abusing that priviledge then they are as much answerable to their patients and society as anyone else might be.

I cannot and will not comment on the specifics of your potential claim. But as a general principle, my opinion is that the right for you to seek redress is yours and if you feel it is appropriate you should follow that up, as enshrined in the Access to Justice Act 1999.

As for costing you a lot of money...not true. Good Solicitors who deal in medical negligence will act for you under a Conditional Fee Agreement. This essentially and broadly means that they charge you nothing, and if they accept your case and win, the insurer or the medical professional pays their costs NOT YOU.

It is also a complete falsehood, that there are Solicitors out there taking on such claims willy-nilly. I confess an interest. I work for a Solicitors that deals in this area of the law. We reject nine out of every ten claims that comes before us....and before you ask, my firm does not have the specialist knowledge that is needed to deal with a medical negligence claim, so no I cannot help you.

So there, I have said my piece. I am not saying that you should pursue this, just that I passionately believe that you have the right to do so. If you have a genuine claim to make, any good solicitor that deals in medical negligence will offer you a free introductory discussion and if they accept you as a client it's a Conditional Fee Agreement from therein.

As for hassle....yes there is work to be done in such a claim, but that is usually an excellent method of filtering the less honest claimants from the genuinely wronged.

Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 2:46 pm
by Sweet
Paul thanks for that!

I do not work as a lawyer or deal with medcal negligence claims, but i did struggle for seven years to win a case that resulted in death. I have learnt that malpractice is a very hard case to take to court and that there are many points that need to be covered to ensure you have a case. Also a valid point but if you are suing the NHS you are over 95% likely to fail.

Giving for example the wrong drugs, or malpractice that results in severe disability or death are hard enough on their own to claim, as the defence can state that it was done in 'the patients best interests' etc and top consultants will back up and defend everything they say. The NHS and medical bodies stick together at times like this, because as said before it can't be made that everyone can sue!

With this post though there is no real damage that i can see except emotionally which doesn't really stand as a negligence case and you need to be able to prove loss of earnings and severe depression etc to claim. If i was to lose an arm for example and be severly traumatised because of this and it could be put down to medical negligence, i would win more money in court than if i had died.

Being traumatised by something pays out a lot more and losing your career because of this and being unable to work is a major part. Death is not the same, you obviously cannot earn lose of earnings so unless it is a main bread winner in the family which means a major loss in finances the amount paid out is just £7,500

If you think that in the time you were left waiting and not knowing what your condition was that you lost earnings or your health was severely affected then you can claim for it. If however it was just a dam nuisance which these things always are then they will find it difficult to put a price on that as your earnings weren't affected, and this is what governs most claims in court.

Saying that the claim may never reach court, but if the defendants think there is enough of a reason to avoid publicity they will settle financially out of court. This is saying though that you can justify the main criteria for emotional stress being loss of earnings and health etc.

Sad as it is i think that most of us here have been in the same situation (myself included), and just had to wait to see what the hospital came up with when we eventually got there!

But indeed as Paul said if you want to take a case on it is very easy to pop into a lawyers and ask. One specialising in medical negligence would cause you less problems in the long term as they deal with cases like this all the time. You are entitled to a no win no fee basis if they have it which means that you do not have to put money upfront, and legal aid if your finances fall below a certain level, although there are many limits on this and the case has to be one that is a certain winner. Best of luck with it whatever you decide!

Sweet X x X

Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 2:51 pm
by Lynn White

As an optometrist let me clear a few things up. You would not actually "sue" an optometrist in the first instance, you would report him to the GOC - General Optical Council - for professional misconduct.

The GOC would consider whether the optometrist had been negligent by investigating the case and may or may not strike the optometrist off. This would not actually benefit you personally financially speaking. Claire was discussing legal action against the NHS and as Optometrists are not employed directly by the NHS, that same situation does not apply here.

If the GOC found him to be negligent and struck him off, then you would have a case for personal legal action I suppose.

Now as to whether this is a case suitable to report... It has been discussed above whether optometrists can "diagnose" or not. This is actually a situation under change at the moment. Technically they can't but due to more and more shared care schemes where optometrists handle glaucoma, diabetic and cataract cases, optometrists increasingly DO diagnose.

Keratoconus is notoriously difficult to properly diagnose and I have personally found the situation varies depending on the area of the country. I have personally referred patients that to me seem absolutely to have KC and yet the consultant has returned them saying its high astigmatism and amblyopia (lazy eye). So this can work the other way as well!!

Jay is perfectly correct - the only way nowadays to be reasonably sure is to use a topography machine and these are very expensive at the moment and hardly an everyday piece of equipment in a High Street Opticians.

You CAN tell, if you are experienced, by looking at the distortion you get using a retinoscope (a hand held instrument used for assessing your refraction that every optom generally has) - but experience is something not every optom will have as you can go years in a practice without seeing a single keratoconic!

The only thing that confuses me is the optom went to the trouble of telling you and then said it had cleared up when your specialist says you were quite advanced in one eye. How bad is your vision in spectacles with either eye? I can only assume your vision was better in the second appointment with the optometrist?

You do not say how you found you you were KC - did you go to a consultant privately or did you talk to your GP?

Overall, the point about legal action is that even if you had been referred a few months earlier you would not be in any different situation than you are now. Its not as if you could have had a treatment that would have stopped you progressing etc. The optom actually alerted you to a possible problem and I would have thought it would have been a worse situation if he had said nothing at all.

If you could give me a bit more background, I can perhaps contribute a bit more. This IS an important discussion - KC is hard to diagnose and actually educating Optoms is more benefit to the patient than suing.

Paul might say "Well an optom WOULD say that!" as he feels passionately about legal rights - but consider this - air safety only improved when the authorities took a quantum leap of faith and instituted a "no blame" system of reporting accidents and incidents. From this, a great deal was learnt about what went wrong in flying, from fatigue to mechanical faults. This benefitted us the passengers more than any amount of suing and legal action!

It would therefore have been beneficial for the optom had the consultant written to him explaining what signs pointed up the diagnosis and what criteria his hospital laid down for referral for KC. Unfortunately, its a fact of life that hospital consultants rarely write back to optoms after we refer patients (they have to send a report to the GP but dont to us) so it is very hard to learn and improve.

Hope this helps!


Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 3:08 pm
by Sweet
Hehe ok i guess i didn't make that so clear! But then it is very easy to say who would be the ones sued when to patients we only want the person who we think was wrong to be affected. I do already know this, and guess i forgot to say, but you cannot just claim against one medical person, you are actually claiming against the organisation they work for, be it the NHS / GOC or whatever.

Yes opticians are not covered with the NHS but i don't think you can put in a personal claim either. All medical personnel are covered by the profession they work with and they will have insurance to cover them anyway.

Whatever happens sorry but i still so not see a claim here, though please don't let all of us put you off if this is what you believe in. If i had listened to people saying how bad i was to be suing the NHS when i work in it i wouldn't have done what i thought was the right thing either.

I also have to say that i would have rather my optician be honest with me than have to wait over a year to see a consultant in the hospital and have the worry over my head. So technically i could claim for that stress as well!!

Sweet X x X

Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 7:34 pm
by Louise Pembroke
Wish I could have sued my previous consultant in my previous hospital for neglect. Making me wait 2 years longer than neccessary for my first graft on the grounds that he didn't like people with mental health difficulties and so didn't want to operate on me despite me fitting the criteria because I might have 'banged my head against the wall' [I have no history of head banging]. I knew the reality of the situation because a member of the contact lens clinic was a personal friend, and she told me how he spoke of me. She spent a year persuading him to see me and put me on the list, and I'll always be indebted to her. He let personal prejudice colour his clinical judgement and he did that without talking to me, my GP, or a mental health professional.

Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 8:18 pm
by Paul Osborne

To be honest if I were you I would leave it, because it is probably not worth the emotional effort. If the KC is diagnosed by the consultant as being bad then you will have another other stuff to keep you occupied that you won't need the grief.

I have had problems with my eyes for around ten years and only just found out I had KC in final stages when I changed optician who reffered me via my GP to the consultant and now I am waiting for a graft. At first I was shocked and horrified and also considered ranting at the previous opticians I had seen. I didn't for several reasons:

1. KC is actually quite hard to detect in its early stages
2. most hight street opticians (ie chain stores) want you in and out as quickly as possible - no its not right - but it is the way things are
3. the optician who did spot it at a small independant place, really seems to know what he was doing - and I wouldn't be using him now if it had been spotted by some other optician
4. I did not actually see that I could gain anything by grumbling at the previous opticians
5. I have enough other worries with going through the GMC (or whatever the regulatory body is) and at the end of the day the opticians I had seen have not really been negligent that I could see

So give it some time to get used to the idea of KC and consider through reading other postings on this forum what other people are going through. Because if you are in final stages KC you are going to have to go through some of that as well and to be honest if the cornea is knackered being diagnosed with it earlier would not now make a tremendous amount of difference now, except you would have had more time to get used to it.

You are not alone - I only found out I had KC in October last year, in theory I should be having a graft in the next few months - and that was a suprise and a shock and to be honest I don't think I will be used to the idea that I have KC for quite a while yet.

Take care and good luck.


Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 9:09 pm
by Andrew MacLean

Whatever you decide, and it is your decision to make, it is good that you have found your way to the group.

Stay in touch


Posted: Sat 14 Jan 2006 9:26 pm
by Paul Morgan
Lynn White wrote: Paul might say "Well an optom WOULD say that!" as he feels passionately about legal rights - but consider this - air safety only improved when the authorities took a quantum leap of faith and instituted a "no blame" system of reporting accidents and incidents. From this, a great deal was learnt about what went wrong in flying, from fatigue to mechanical faults. This benefitted us the passengers more than any amount of suing and legal action!

No Lynn....Paul absolutely would not say that.

Each incident should be judged on it's merits...that is why as I said earlier in my company 90% of claims are rejected.

But incidents of neglect should not be allowed to hide behind any 'no blame' type of reporting sytem where human beings are concerned for all the reasons I gave earlier.

Well that's my opinion anyway.