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GP mistakes led to patient suffering a stroke and going blind

Doctors missed a man’s stroke which led him to suffer another one and go temporarily blind.

The man said that the experience had changed him from ‘an outgoing social person, to a sheltered man living in fear that he is not being looked after competently’.

The 75-year-old visited his GP in Darlington complaining of dizziness, light-headedness, and a numb foot. 

He had experienced a stroke and should have been immediately sent to hospital. But doctors missed the signs, diagnosed him with a ‘dropped foot’ and requested an urgent MRI scan. However, due to an administrative error the referral wasn’t made and the scan never happened.

A month after visiting the GP, the man suffered a blinding headache and diminished vision. He saw an ophthalmologist who referred him to a specialist team.

He had suffered another stroke. He also paid for a private scan which confirmed the first stroke happened a month earlier.

Distressingly, the man lost vision in his right eye, which he was told could be permanent. Fortunately, his sight returned eight weeks later.

His daughter, who described the experience as ‘horrendous’, complained to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) about her father’s care.

The PHSO found that the initial symptoms were signs of a problem with nerve, spinal cord, or brain function. Doctors should have suspected a stroke and immediately sent him to hospital. If that had happened, the second stroke and sight loss would likely have been avoided.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said:

“Having a stroke and then being told you could be permanently blind must have been incredibly frightening. The impact on the man, and his family who supported him through the ordeal, will have been deep and long-lasting.

“Mistakes like these need to be recognised and acted upon so that they are not repeated.”

Read full press release

Read case file

Source: PHSO, 4 October 2023


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