Musgrove Park eye ops 'painful' and 'rushed', report claims

Musgrove Park Hospital
Image caption The hospital initially refused to release the report citing legal issues

Patients who had eye operations at a hospital where staff raised concerns about the procedures said they suffered pain and felt rushed, a report claims.

Cataract operations carried out at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton in May left some with blurred vision.

The procedures were carried out on 62 people in a mobile unit by by private provider Vanguard Healthcare. Twenty-five of them had a "normal recovery".

Ophthalmology staff voiced concerns but operations continued, the report says.

Burns and metal

The first operations happened on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the start of the month. The hospital had planned to operate on 400 people.

But by the Tuesday, some patients had come to back to the hospital complaining about their vision.

The report claims that three patients needed further surgery because of retention of lens matter, two suffered eye burns while six patients were found with microscopic metallic fragments in their eyes.

One told staff they were "shouted at" for moving, the report said.

Image copyright Spl
Image caption Four hundred people were due to undergo the cataract procedure

Initial internal staff emails focused on a lack of follow-up arrangements for the patients and said it was unusual to have three patients complaining of problems.

The national average rate for complications in this type of surgery is 4.64%, but the report said the figure on patients sent to the mobile unit differed "10-fold" from this.

Ophthalmology staff also told managers in emails that "one a year would have been an issue".

Hospital managers decided to review all patients who had been operated on, but also gave the go-ahead for new surgeries to take place while previous patients were still being checked.

What are cataracts?

  • The NHS says a cataract is a cloudiness of the eye that can cause vision to become blurred and hazy
  • Most cataracts develop with age although sometimes babies and young children can develop them
  • Minor cloudiness of the lens is a normal part of aging but as it gets worse, surgery is the only way to restore vision
  • Surgery is available on the NHS if cataracts are making activities such as driving, reading or looking after somebody hard

Source: NHS cataract surgery

These new operations then had to be stopped after staff assessing patients who had previously undergone procedures found some also had eye problems.

On the final day of surgery, there were seven operations despite the warnings over previous complications.

A statement from the hospital said: "The decision to allow surgery to go ahead on 9 May was taken following a number of teleconference conversations with all parties involved during that week."

But the hospital said that not everybody included in the email was in the hospital that day and "there was a delay in the email being seen".

"Surgery was stopped during the morning as a result of the email and feedback from the review clinic that was also being held at the same time," the statement added.

Report refusal

The report investigated whether surgical technique could have been to blame but said this could not "provide the whole explanation".

The Vanguard mobile unit was brought in to help lower waiting lists for the eye operations.

The firm's CEO, Ian Gillespie, said he wanted to "personally convey" his sympathy for any patients affected.

"The investigation does not identify any one cause, but instead points to a number of different factors which may have led to the complications experienced by patients," he said.

"No issues have been identified with the Vanguard mobile theatre facility itself; however there are clearly lessons to be learnt by all parties."

Musgrove Park Hospital had initially refused to release its internal report citing legal issues with its publication.

But it was released following a Freedom of Information Act request by the BBC.

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