A London firm that secured £500,000 in damages for a laser eye surgery patient has called for urgent reform of the sector.
Stephanie Holloway, 28, sued high street chain Optical Express after claiming that surgery left her eyes so sensitive she had to wear dark glasses. The company has indicated that it may seek to appeal.
Devonshires Solicitors, which represented Holloway, said increasing numbers of patients are seeking redress for damage caused during laser surgery.
‘This case has highlighted that the high street laser eye surgery business needs more effective regulation – my client is not alone in her experience,’ said Daniel Clifford, head of clinical negligence. I am concerned that some doctors, perhaps driven by profits, are not treating patients properly when they advise on and seek to undertake delicate eye treatment.’
The firm says current guidelines, which suggest patients should have an appointment with a surgeon prior to the day of surgery, should be mandatory. It is also campaigning for an enforced ‘cooling-off’ period of at least seven days between the initial consultation and the surgery itself.
Medical professionals who perform these procedures on the NHS must be registered on the General Medical Council specialist register of ophthalmologists. Those who perform laser eye surgery in the private sector must hold a current registration with the GMC, but need not appear on the specialist register.
Holloway, from Hampshire, was 21 when she tried to have her short-sightedness corrected so she could join the police force. The damages award came to a total of £569,287, including £30,000 for Holloway’s ‘pain and suffering’ and over £400,000 for her lost earnings.
A spokesperson for Optical Express said: ‘Ms Holloway’s last visit to Optical Express was on 26 November 2009. Optical Express firmly believes that her symptoms could be fully resolved with further treatment and are very disappointed that we were not afforded the opportunity to help her.
We are liaising with the surgeon’s insurers and are exploring potential options for further action in this case.
‘Laser eye surgery is amongst the most successful elective surgical procedures carried out in the world today. However, we must be clear that not every patient who seeks laser eye surgery is a suitable candidate for a procedure.
‘Based on our strict clinical parameters and in the patients’ best interests, we have refused to treat over 150,000 patients in the last five years.
‘We are proud of the fact that in a recent survey of 252,179 Optical Express patients, over 99% told us they would recommend us to their family and friends.’