65-year-old Robert Sowerby became unwell over Christmas. He was prescribed antibiotics by his GP. When his vision deteriorated, he attended Northampton General Hospital’s accident and emergency department late on 27 December.
He reported he was seeing black spots in both eyes and was suffering rigors and other signs of an infection. He saw the duty ophthalmologist who initially thought that he had a bacterial infection or a recurrence of cancer. She telephoned the ophthalmic consultant, who advised over the phone. This was against the hospital’s own protocols.
She advised to treat for cancer and not investigate or treat the infection.
The hospital’s guidelines stated that Robert should have immediately been taken to theatre and given antibiotics directly into his eyes as there was a very significant risk that he would lose his sight.
There were many occasions over the next days when the ophthalmologists should have taken the correct course but the infection remained untreated. Robert was transferred to the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre on 31 December in a moribund state.
Robert had developed septicaemia and a severe eye infection, endogenous endophthalmitis, which rendered him blind. We argued that treatment on the night of admission with intravitreal antibiotics would have saved his sight and prevented the septicaemia.
Paul McNeil acted on behalf of Robert and pursued a medical negligence claim against the Northampton General for the delay in diagnosis and treatment. On expert advice, we alleged that with proper, earlier treatment, Robert would not have been rendered blind, although he may have suffered impaired vision as a result of the initial infection. The claim settled for £390,000.
After the settlement Robert said:
"When I lost my sight, I lost everything. I was totally despondent. I didn’t know what to do. With the help of my family, we decided to channel our frustrations in a legal battle. We knew that I had not been treated properly, but we had to find someone who believed in our plight.
Paul McNeil believed that we had a case, although not an easy one. Paul worked tirelessly on my behalf, always seeking out the best experts and giving me advice when I needed it.
My future is now far from bleak. I will be in a position to acquire specialist equipment, which will return a degree of normality to my life. Without Paul’s hard work, none of this would have been possible."
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