Luton and Dunstable Hospital pays damages to patient after leaving plastic tube behind his eye

Gerard Blaney. Photo by James Rudd
Gerard Blaney. Photo by James Rudd

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital has paid £13,000 damages to a grandfather after leaving a plastic tube behind his eye for more than a year.

Gerard Blaney, 79, of Harpenden, thought everything was fine after having a procedure to widen a tear duct in March 2016, but 13 months later, following a period of his eye watering and discomfort, the plastic tubing began to stick out from his eye.

He tried to push it back and had to cut a piece off to prevent it from scratching his pupil. He went to his local eye hospital, who referred him back to the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, where the original operation had taken place.

When he went to the hospital in Luton he was told he should have had a follow-up appointment two weeks after the operation to remove the tube - something which hadn’t happened due to an “administrative error”.

Mr Blaney took legal action against Luton and Dunstable University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust through medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, as he needed two further operations to finally remove the tube. It resulted in the Trust agreeing to a £13,000 damages settlement.

When Mr Blaney discovered the tube hanging from his eye he called for his wife and they tried to pull it out, but were unsuccessful due to a knot at the end. They then tried to push it back into place before cutting the tube down and intentionally leaving a small piece hanging out.

As it was a Sunday, they decided to cover his eye with a patch overnight and wait until the following day to seek medical attention, with the aim of avoiding any potential weekend waits at the hospital.

At the hospital, Mr Blaney was seen by two ear, nose and throat consultants and needed further surgery just days later, but he was told the tube could not be found.

He then paid privately to see another consultant who again operated and managed to locate and remove the tube.

Mr Blaney said: “I was rubbing my eye for a few days and it got worse, as if there was something sticking into my eye, so I went to the bathroom to have a look. Seeing the tube coming out of my eye frightened the life out of me.

“I tried to ease the tube out but it wouldn’t move and there was something stopping it. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my wife to the bathroom and she couldn’t believe it either.

“I was flabbergasted when I found out the tube should have been removed so soon after the initial operation.

“It was very poor of the hospital not to call me back and I felt badly let down. They tried to make out it was my fault for cutting the tube and not going straight to the hospital.

“After all of this happened I became a recluse and couldn’t go out as everyone was asking what was wrong with my eye and my cheek was really red.”

As part of the legal case, it was alleged Mr Blaney suffered six months of avoidable pain and loss of amenity, as he felt unable to go out in public because his cheek and face were reddened after the operation to remove the tube.

Also highlighted in the legal claim was the fact he had to undergo exploration of his nasal passages using clamps, a scan and two further procedures under general anaesthetic before the tube was located and removed by another surgeon, all as consequences of the original error.

The Trust accepted Mr Blaney should have been given an appointment for the tube to be removed six to eight weeks after surgery and that an “administrative error” meant this did not happen, which led to the tube being left in place.

It also admitted that failure to arrange an appointment for the removal of the tube fell below an acceptable standard of care.

When Mr Blaney did return to the hospital, the Trust said he had taken the “unadvised step” of cutting it and it could not be located. The Trust denied causing anything other than a period of discomfort and said the subsequent treatment to remove the tube was attributed to his failure to seek medical advice and the decision to cut the tube himself.

Solicitor Tasmin White, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Mr Blaney, she said: “This should have been a straightforward eye operation and recovery period for my client. Instead, he has been through so much both physically and emotionally as a result.

“It is simply an inexcusable error to fail to arrange follow up appointments. We see this all too often and such errors can have serious consequences.

“What happened in this case was not insignificant because it had such a detrimental effect on him. It really got him down and he stopped going out afterwards.

“To see a tube coming out of your eye is a shocking event in itself, but then to have to go through further procedures, which were completely avoidable had the correct procedures been followed at the start, is unacceptable.

“I hope this settlement goes some way to helping Mr Blaney move forward and also recover some of the costs incurred for the private medical treatment he sought to ultimately resolve the problem caused by poor care.”

Mr Blaney added: “I’m a lot better now and back playing golf with my friends. I’ve been back to the hospital since and they seem to have changed their booking system.

“I didn’t have any problems with any of the consultants, but it was the process, what happened and the outcome which let me down.

“Now it’s all over, I’m happy. But it should never have happened and I want lessons to be learnt. I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”

A Luton & Dunstable Hospital spokesman said: “We have apologised to Mr Blaney for the poor standard of care he received, and we are pleased that the case has now been settled.”