The claimant was born prematurely at 23+6 days gestation at Stepping Hill Hospital and was transferred to the special care unit at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester.
Because of her prematurity, the ophthalmologists at St Mary’s were aware she was at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This condition generally affects premature babies where the retinal blood vessels develop abnormally and can lead to loss of vision and blindness.
Regular examinations were carried out at St Mary's hospital from the time she reached 30 weeks gestational age and she was considered high risk for ROP. The claimant was due to be transferred back to Stepping Hill hospital for ongoing treatment. Prior to her transfer, an eye examination confirmed that she was showing early stages of the condition and the warning made that she would need close follow-up at Stepping Hill because of the likelihood that her ROP would progress.
Following her transfer to Stepping Hill, her eyes were examined on six more occasions over a seven week period; however it was only on the seventh examination that she was referred back to St Mary's for review and treatment of her ROP. Examination by the ophthalmologists at St Mary's confirmed she in fact had an advanced stage of the disease, with extensive stage 3 disease in the right eye, with pre-retinal haemorrhage and early retinal detachment, and in the left eye a significant element of stage 3 and stage 2 disease. Extensive laser treatment was performed as a matter of urgency to both eyes.
The claimant was left with significantly affected poor vision in the left eye and no effective vision, only perception of light, in the right eye. Her education is adversely impacted because of difficulties accessing the curriculum, as is her future earning potential. She is for all intents and purposes "night blind". She needs the support of a buddy to help navigate daily activities. She benefits from assistive technology, adapted accommodation and other aids and equipment. She is also at risk of being totally blind should she suffer retinal detachment in her better eye.
The Trust accepted that there was a delay in referring the claimant back for treatment of her ROP but denied that this was negligent. It was also denied that earlier treatment would have led to a better outcome for the claimant's vision. Shortly before a trial on liability, settlement was reached at a round table meeting. The defendants accepted the claimant's positon that but for the negligent treatment the outcome would have been significantly better visual acuity in both eyes and binocular, not monocular, vision.
The defendant eventually agreed to settle on terms that it paid damages of £1.8 million to the claimant, but on a provisional basis. Accordingly, she will be entitled to apply for further damages if she suffers retinal detachment in her left eye at any point in her lifetime.
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