Man experiences temporary blindness after GP misses signs of stroke

A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman decision found that the man’s stroke went undiagnosed for a month after his first visit to the GP

A gold statue of a blind-folded woman in a flowing robe is displayed against a blue background. In one hand the woman holds a sword above her head. In the other, she holds a set of scales.
Pixabay/Sang Hyun Cho

A 75-year-old man temporarily lost vision in his right eye after his GP practice missed signs of a stroke.

A decision by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman described how the patient visited his GP in Darlington after experiencing dizziness, light-headedness, and a numb foot. He had experienced a stroke.

The man’s GP diagnosed him with a ‘dropped foot’ and requested an urgent MRI scan. However, an administrative error meant that the referral was not sent.

A month after his visit to the GP, the patient suffered a second stroke. He presented to an ophthalmologist with a severe headache and diminished vision.

The man lost vision in his right eye, which returned eight weeks later. After a private scan confirmed that the man had experienced a stroke before his first visit to the GP, the patient’s daughter complained to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about his care.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens emphasised that having a stroke and being told that he could be permanently blind would have been “incredibly frightening” for the patient.

“The impact on the man, and his family who supported him through the ordeal, will have been deep and long-lasting,” Behrens said.

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

The GP surgery has apologised for the distress caused by not sending the MRI referral and made improvements to its processes.

The Ombudsman advised the surgery to pay the man £1200 for the distress and to cover the cost of the private MRI scan – recommendations which the surgery has complied with.