Cataract patients suffer complications after private firm's operations at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton

Dr Colin Close, medical director at Musgrove Park Hospital.

Dr Colin Close, medical director at Musgrove Park Hospital.

First published in News
Last updated

A PRIVATE firm hired to perform routine eye surgery at Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital had its contract terminated after dozens of patients suffered mystery complications.

A total of 31 of the 62 patients who had cataracts removed earlier this month experienced blurred vision and swollen corneas – normally one in 400 have such side effects, according to Musgrove.

Patients, who were treated under local anaesthetic in a mobile unit beside the day surgery unit, have been recalled and given treatment to ease the problem, but some may need further surgery in the future.

Health chiefs, who are braced for possible compensation claims, are unsure what caused the reaction to the procedure to remove cataracts and replace them with lenses and an investigation is underway.

Musgrove’s medical director Dr Colin Close said private firm Vanguard Healthcare was taken on on May 2 to reduce a backlog of cataract patients caused by an influx of emergency patients in the winter of 2012/13 and difficulty replacing medical ophthalmology staff who had left.

He stressed the lengthy waiting list was not due do NHS cutbacks, while Musgrove is currently advertising for an ophthalmology consultant.

Vanguard’s £320,000 contract for 400 operations was terminated after four days after over 30 of the 62 patients operated on complained, more than ten of them with “significant” issues.

“We still don’t know exactly what the cause is – we’re trying to identify that at the moment. There could be a range of causes,” said Dr Close.

“You would normally expect one in 400 patients to experience these complications – here we had a trickle of patients coming through complaining of blurred vision, which wasn’t expected.

“There’s a possibility a small number might need surgery in the future – where these patients are identified, we will follow them up long-term to provide care and treatment as required.”

Musgrove is hopeful most of the patients will recover completely after follow-up visits.

Dr Close said Musgrove could possibly be hit by a wave of compensation claims.

He added: “Any financial responsibility would rest with us.

“If any patients wish to pursue compensation, we would work with them."

The Vanguard mobile unit used for the operations has been quarantined while an investigation seeks to discover whether the fault was down to human error or mechanical or chemical reasons.

“At the moment we don’t have that answer,” said Dr Close.

“We’re deeply disappointed for our patients, but we want to reassure everybody in Taunton that they can have complete confidence in our own ophthalmology department.

“Anyone coming up for cataract surgery in Musgrove has nothing to be worried about.”

In a statement issued to the County Gazette headed ‘We don’t always get things right, but we are committed to learn’, Musgrove chief executive Jo Cubbon said: “Some of our patients, many of whom had already waited longer than they should have, will now have to wait again for their operation.

“We are very sorry this has happened and are working to put a solution in place so that these patients will receive their treatment as soon as possible.”

Phil Hicks, spokesman for Vanguard, whose website claims the company has “the world’s largest fleet of mobile healthcare facilities”, said they were asked by the trust to help them solve a problem clearing a backlog of cataract patients.

He added: "We are cooperating fully with them to assist with investigating the likely cause(s) of the higher rate of known complications than expected.

"We have with the hospital conveyed to the patients our concern and sympathy for the discomfort or distress they have experienced. 

"These procedures were carried out in Vanguard’s operating theatre, using highly qualified surgeons with many years’ experience of working in the NHS and who were vetted by the trust. Vanguards core business is the provision of clinically equivalent operating theatre facilities, and no other services of the kind deployed in this case are currently in operation."

A spokesman for Somerset Sight said: “Experiencing sight loss can be stressful and worrying.

“It is extremely concerning to us that people are being put through the added stress of surgical complications at an already difficult time.

“Cataracts are one of few eye conditions that can be treated and it is our concern that people will lose confidence in what is supposed to be a safe and effective procedure.”

Labour’s county, district and town councillor Andrew Govier, of Wellington, said: “We should have enough trained NHS staff to deliver this type of operation.

“But where capacity is a problem and there is a need for outside people to be brought in, the important thing is quality, particularly with people’s health.”

*Anyone with further concerns can contact Musgrove’s Patient Advice and Liaison on 01823-343536.

*Somerset Sight, which has a team of volunteers offering information and support at Musgrove’s eye clinic, can be contacted on 01823-333818.

Comments (7)

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2:24pm Thu 29 May 14

sfj642 says...

I had my second cataract operation yesterday (28th) in Musgrove - medically everything was excellent. The staff got on well with each other - a real team effort by everyone concerned.
I know there is great pressure on the cataract surgery team with extra hours being worked and hope the Musgrove Park team can find another way of increasing the throughput of patients for this wonderful operation.
Somerset is a retirement area with a higher percentage of elderly compared to the rest of the country.
Additional funding should be made available to enable the outstanding ophthalmic team to meet the localised pressure on the service.
I had my second cataract operation yesterday (28th) in Musgrove - medically everything was excellent. The staff got on well with each other - a real team effort by everyone concerned. I know there is great pressure on the cataract surgery team with extra hours being worked and hope the Musgrove Park team can find another way of increasing the throughput of patients for this wonderful operation. Somerset is a retirement area with a higher percentage of elderly compared to the rest of the country. Additional funding should be made available to enable the outstanding ophthalmic team to meet the localised pressure on the service. sfj642
  • Score: 13

5:42pm Thu 29 May 14

SocialistParty*SomersetBranch says...

"Musgrove’s medical director Dr Colin Close said... the lengthy waiting list was not due do NHS cutbacks"

Question: When has any senior manager ever publicly admitted that any service failure is the direct consequence of 'cutbacks'?

Answer: Never.

www.socialistparty.o
rg.uk
"Musgrove’s medical director Dr Colin Close said... the lengthy waiting list was not due do NHS cutbacks" Question: When has any senior manager ever publicly admitted that any service failure is the direct consequence of 'cutbacks'? Answer: Never. www.socialistparty.o rg.uk SocialistParty*SomersetBranch
  • Score: 8

6:18pm Thu 29 May 14

Rusty Hinge says...

Privatisation at fault once again. Private companies are there to earn proifts, not to put service first. Bigger profts mean lower quality service. The fact is that all of these pateints would have received higher quality medical treatment elsewhere, even in a country like Cuba.
Privatisation at fault once again. Private companies are there to earn proifts, not to put service first. Bigger profts mean lower quality service. The fact is that all of these pateints would have received higher quality medical treatment elsewhere, even in a country like Cuba. Rusty Hinge
  • Score: 13

11:29am Fri 30 May 14

SocialistParty*SomersetBranch says...

The Con-Dems are destroying our NHS. Alongside cutting 5,000 jobs, their privatisation drive threatens the very existence of a national health service. Health union Unison warns that the government is planning to privatise 30 hospitals driven into 'financial difficulties' through cuts, profiteering pharmaceutical companies and rip-off PFI schemes. The Mirror revealed in February that private health firms with Tory links have been awarded contracts worth nearly £1.5 billion. Prominent among them is Care UK. But while the Tories promote these blood-sucking parasites, workers are fighting them. This speech was made by a striking Doncaster Care UK worker at the miners' strike 30th anniversary rally in Edlington, Doncaster on 5 April.

"I'm proud to say I was born in Edlo. I was a teenager in the miners' strike and I can remember the hardship a lot of people suffered because of it. But I also remember how everyone stuck together and looked out for each other. It's things like that that makes me proud to be part of this today.

Just as the mining community fought Thatcherism against pit closures, we long-time NHS employees are standing up against the privatisation of the NHS. Unfortunately for us who care for people with learning disabilities it is already too late. The contract was up for tender and the mainly Labour council awarded the contract to the inappropriately named company Care UK. Shame on Doncaster council!

Within just a few weeks of taking the contract over, they informed us that for the contract to be sustainable, reductions in our terms and conditions would have to be made. For some of us this would mean losing £500 a month, £6,000 a year, so some are facing losing their homes.

What this company has neglected to make public is that a substantial part of their budget goes straight to their shareholders in profit. Can't pay their staff, but can pay their shareholders!

These people are not just making profit off of us workers but are making profit off of the most vulnerable people in our society, our service users. This is shameful in any civilised society.

We have been striking and will return to the picket line, standing united. We are doing this with a heavy heart but we are resolute that what we are doing is morally the right thing to do.

The support we have had from the unions and other affiliations and the general public has been overwhelming, and all recognise we are fighting against the greed of those profiteering capitalists who have no conscience whatsoever.

What we haven't had is any recognition from any of our local MPs. No acknowledgment of our plight. . The leader of the Opposition, Doncaster MP Ed Miliband, has not uttered a word of support.

Shame on them!"

Don't just get angry - get organised!

www.tusc.org.uk

www.socialistparty.o
rg.uk
The Con-Dems are destroying our NHS. Alongside cutting 5,000 jobs, their privatisation drive threatens the very existence of a national health service. Health union Unison warns that the government is planning to privatise 30 hospitals driven into 'financial difficulties' through cuts, profiteering pharmaceutical companies and rip-off PFI schemes. The Mirror revealed in February that private health firms with Tory links have been awarded contracts worth nearly £1.5 billion. Prominent among them is Care UK. But while the Tories promote these blood-sucking parasites, workers are fighting them. This speech was made by a striking Doncaster Care UK worker at the miners' strike 30th anniversary rally in Edlington, Doncaster on 5 April. "I'm proud to say I was born in Edlo. I was a teenager in the miners' strike and I can remember the hardship a lot of people suffered because of it. But I also remember how everyone stuck together and looked out for each other. It's things like that that makes me proud to be part of this today. Just as the mining community fought Thatcherism against pit closures, we long-time NHS employees are standing up against the privatisation of the NHS. Unfortunately for us who care for people with learning disabilities it is already too late. The contract was up for tender and the mainly Labour council awarded the contract to the inappropriately named company Care UK. Shame on Doncaster council! Within just a few weeks of taking the contract over, they informed us that for the contract to be sustainable, reductions in our terms and conditions would have to be made. For some of us this would mean losing £500 a month, £6,000 a year, so some are facing losing their homes. What this company has neglected to make public is that a substantial part of their budget goes straight to their shareholders in profit. Can't pay their staff, but can pay their shareholders! These people are not just making profit off of us workers but are making profit off of the most vulnerable people in our society, our service users. This is shameful in any civilised society. We have been striking and will return to the picket line, standing united. We are doing this with a heavy heart but we are resolute that what we are doing is morally the right thing to do. The support we have had from the unions and other affiliations and the general public has been overwhelming, and all recognise we are fighting against the greed of those profiteering capitalists who have no conscience whatsoever. What we haven't had is any recognition from any of our local MPs. No acknowledgment of our plight. [Doncaster Labour MP Caroline Flint was in the crowd]. The leader of the Opposition, Doncaster MP Ed Miliband, has not uttered a word of support. Shame on them!" Don't just get angry - get organised! www.tusc.org.uk www.socialistparty.o rg.uk SocialistParty*SomersetBranch
  • Score: 4

12:03pm Fri 30 May 14

SocialistParty*SomersetBranch says...

In their attempts to destroy the NHS the government has established local organisations under the guise of local accountability.

In reality these bodies are part and parcel of the privatisation and fragmentation agenda.

The most important are the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). They exist in every locality, are responsible for spending about 80% of the national NHS budget, comprise of local GPs and commission most NHS services.

It is they that are responsible for outsourcing medical services to private providers.

For example in Bracknell, when the NHS Minor Injuries Unit closed at Heatherwood Hospital, it was the CCG that commissioned a private provider to replace it.

Sometimes there could be a clear conflict of interest with GPs both commissioning services and being themselves providers of private services.

Another body is the Healthwatch (HW), which is meant to be the local independent, health watchdog on behalf of patients.

It is neither independent nor democratic. It is funded by the government via the local authority, although the money is not ring-fenced.

HW is commissioned by the local authority although the latter is responsible for public health, a clear conflict of interest.

In Bracknell the HW is supportive of all the government's reforms, including privatisation of dementia services.

In fact they castigated campaigners for demonstrating against the privatisation. So the people of bracknell launched Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch, which is democratic, accountable and fights against NHS privatisation and calls for openness and transparency in the NHS.

They recently organised a survey asking people what they know about these bodies. Early indications are that most people have never heard about them, yet they are the organisations running the NHS at a local level.

Mobilising the trade unions nationally to fight the government privatisation of the NHS is vital, but it is also important to build local struggles.

Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch have built a united front against the government policies, involving trade unionists, pensioners, anti-cuts campaigners, political activists and patients.

Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch think that to defeat the government we must first understand their strategy. While the local NHS bosses do not like us they have learned to respect us, after all we obtained 25,000 names opposing closure of our local hospital and they were forced to back off.

For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socialistparty.o
rg.uk
In their attempts to destroy the NHS the government has established local organisations under the guise of local accountability. In reality these bodies are part and parcel of the privatisation and fragmentation agenda. The most important are the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). They exist in every locality, are responsible for spending about 80% of the national NHS budget, comprise of local GPs and commission most NHS services. It is they that are responsible for outsourcing medical services to private providers. For example in Bracknell, when the NHS Minor Injuries Unit closed at Heatherwood Hospital, it was the CCG that commissioned a private provider to replace it. Sometimes there could be a clear conflict of interest with GPs both commissioning services and being themselves providers of private services. Another body is the Healthwatch (HW), which is meant to be the local independent, health watchdog on behalf of patients. It is neither independent nor democratic. It is funded by the government via the local authority, although the money is not ring-fenced. HW is commissioned by the local authority although the latter is responsible for public health, a clear conflict of interest. In Bracknell the HW is supportive of all the government's reforms, including privatisation of dementia services. In fact they castigated campaigners for demonstrating against the privatisation. So the people of bracknell launched Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch, which is democratic, accountable and fights against NHS privatisation and calls for openness and transparency in the NHS. They recently organised a survey asking people what they know about these bodies. Early indications are that most people have never heard about them, yet they are the organisations running the NHS at a local level. Mobilising the trade unions nationally to fight the government privatisation of the NHS is vital, but it is also important to build local struggles. Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch have built a united front against the government policies, involving trade unionists, pensioners, anti-cuts campaigners, political activists and patients. Bracknell Forest People's Healthwatch think that to defeat the government we must first understand their strategy. While the local NHS bosses do not like us they have learned to respect us, after all we obtained 25,000 names opposing closure of our local hospital and they were forced to back off. For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socialistparty.o rg.uk SocialistParty*SomersetBranch
  • Score: 3

6:13pm Sat 31 May 14

Han6552 says...

I certainly don't call practically half of the patients who were operated on having to complain as a trickle! I doubt if Dr Close had half the River Tone in his garden he would call it a trickle. I would be extremely worried if I were awaiting cataract surgery - in fact I try not to go anywhere near Musgrove if humanly possible. It still took them a year to catch up with their "backlog". Try doing away with half the overpaid "Managers" and bring back traditional nursing - (a) you'd save money and (b) things would be done properly.
I certainly don't call practically half of the patients who were operated on having to complain as a trickle! I doubt if Dr Close had half the River Tone in his garden he would call it a trickle. I would be extremely worried if I were awaiting cataract surgery - in fact I try not to go anywhere near Musgrove if humanly possible. It still took them a year to catch up with their "backlog". Try doing away with half the overpaid "Managers" and bring back traditional nursing - (a) you'd save money and (b) things would be done properly. Han6552
  • Score: 3

8:00am Wed 18 Jun 14

MrMagooo says...

The question that needs to be asked here is ..when did the senior Trust management really know that there was a problem?

Dr Close states that "Vanguard’s £320,000 contract for 400 operations was terminated after four days"...really?, I understand that procedures were still being undertaken 7 days later, despite the senior Trust management being told formally by their senior opthamology clinicians that there was a problem after just 4 days, and hence did they fail to act dilligently and therefore knowingly put patients at risk?

If this is the case then it is very worrying for future patient care at Musgrove, under the current Trust management team?
The question that needs to be asked here is ..when did the senior Trust management really know that there was a problem? Dr Close states that "Vanguard’s £320,000 contract for 400 operations was terminated after four days"...really?, I understand that procedures were still being undertaken 7 days later, despite the senior Trust management being told formally by their senior opthamology clinicians that there was a problem after just 4 days, and hence did they fail to act dilligently and therefore knowingly put patients at risk? If this is the case then it is very worrying for future patient care at Musgrove, under the current Trust management team? MrMagooo
  • Score: 3

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