Westminster Hall @ 9.30am today, parliamentary debate about ‘Eye health and macular disease’, when John McDonnell MP will be speaking about the unregulated refractive surgery industry, and its cost to the NHS
The Times online has a paywall, but you can sign up for a free month's subscription if you'd like to comment (as I did), and cancel before the first payment is due!
'Profits at the owner of the Optical Express chain have increased sharply.*
Annual accounts for Lorena Investments show a 15 per dip in turnover to £99.1 million, but reduced costs, partly as a result of fewer high street outlets and a smaller marketing budget, lifted pre-tax profit to £20.1 million in 2020, up from £648,000 previously.
That profit included £7.5 million of government grants.** The company also benefited from lower exceptional charges of only £23,000, compared with more than £4 million in the previous 12 months.
David Moulsdale started Optical Express in 1991 with a shop in Edinburgh providing eyecare, spectacles and contact lenses. The company has gone through a big restructuring over the past decade, which includes Moulsdale, 52, now its chairman and still the owner, buying Optical Express’s debt from Royal Bank of Scotland in 2013.
There are 105 Optical Express outlets on British high streets, as well as sites in the Republic of Ireland, Croatia and Germany. Turnover fell by 17 per cent to £89.6 million in 2020, while Europe was down marginally at £9.5 million.
Stewart Mein, 50, a Lorena Investments director, said: “Our business continued to move from the high street, as leases concluded, to purpose-built, state-of-the-art clinical facilities driven by consumer demand. In turn, property overhead costs were driven down, whilst continuing to invest heavily in technological solutions which provide further enhanced levels of clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and safety.”'
*Increased no doubt because Optical Express (and Optimax/Ultralase UK ) operated throughout most of lockdown, claiming they were providing necessary surgery, and taking business from other providers who had closed to abide by government restrictions. Even the #NHS cancelled many necessary ops!
NB: I have good reason to believe that OE's profits will take a sharp downturn by the end of 2022, as they are also aware!
It took 2 months to get this story published, with Marcello Mega and I jumping through countless hoops - Daily Mail Health Correspondent Shaun Wooller finally getting it over the line for print around 6pm on Friday evening
Many thanks to both journalists, to the ophthalmologists who helped with the science stuff, but mostly to the Optimax victims who agreed to go public with their experiences, including those whose interviews didn't make it to press on this occasion due to lack of space.
However, as I previously mentioned, there is more to come...
Meanwhile, it's still VERY important to share Saturday's post, or this one, as we don't know how many people are out there, worldwide, blissfully unaware of their urgent need for an endothelial cell count check!
“Sasha Rodoy, of My Beautiful Eyes Foundation, which supports patients who have had poor outcomes from refractive eye surgery, said: ‘I am gravely concerned about the patients Optimax has been unable to contact... they may be walking around with a potential time bomb in their eyes.’”
More to come about this story re Optimax & owner Russell Ambrose
Belated update to my 25 May post (scroll down to catch up), when BBC Morning Live presenter Gethin Jones had laser eye surgery ’top up’ with Julian Stevens at Moorfields Private Eye Hospital
Deafening silence when I asked Gethin Jones whether he or the BBC had paid for his surgery, or if it was ‘gifted’ - aka a freebie in return for priceless advertising!
So I sent an FOI to the BBC, who surprisingly gave me the information I'd requested without a fight!
However, they probably realised that had they not, I would certainly have argued that such information could not possibly fall under the purpose of 'journalism, art or literature', given that this was a blatant advertorial, making a mockery of their claim: 'It is important that the BBC is an independent and impartial news organisation.'
A definite complaint for Ofcom, though previous similar complaints not upheld!
And why has Gethin Jones refused to answer my reasonable question asking whether or not he paid for his surgery with Julian Stevens?
Meanwhile, regardless that Julian generates revenue ostensibly used to help fund NHS Moorfields Eye Hospital, arranging for his private patients to be referred for NHS aftercare a scandal in itself, and insupportable that his actions went unchallenged by CEO David Probert and MD Nick Strouthidis!
Everything I publish/say is true and factual, supported by evidence, and no-one has ever attempted to sue me for defamation, or anything else related to my work (I wish - publicity!), so why am I - and the many 1,000s of people I represent (with tragic stories that should generate TV & newspaper headlines) ignored by press and media?
In 2019, surprisingly inviting to appear with Dan Reinstein on This Morning, producer Caron Kemp told me they needed to make sure it was a balanced piece - yet ZERO balance when Reinstein has appeared time and time again promoting laser eye surgery, on both ITV and BBC, with some of the presenters getting free surgery from him!
Waiting for the call to arrange my pick up time I was instead called by a junior team member, who nervously told me the producer had gone with another case study.
Utter bullsh*t (as I told him)!
As My Beautiful Eyes Campaign manager, calling for UK government regulation of the refractive eye surgery industry, and patient advocate representing an endless stream of people damaged by this industry, it was a no brainer that I should have been the obvious choice - as I was!
But just as I'd guessed, I later discovered that Reinstein had refused to appear with me!
And my replacement didn't get on either, because waiting in the green room he challenged Dan about the number of suicides caused by the debilitating results of laser eye surgery, Dan threw a tantrum and refused to go on if he did!
The Reinstein Cowboy (so named by his peers, or Dr Blindstein as named by Boris Johnson) then claimed he only does repair work on 1 in 1000 patients (only true if others he's damaged can't be fixed!) - he also left Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford gobsmacked, claiming that wearing glasses is a big risk!
Scroll back to 17 October 2019 for full story and more ...
It should be noted that there has been NO balanced piece on TV shows about laser eye surgery at ANY time - in fact NO mention of damaged patients ever in the promos advertising clinics/surgeons without caveat!
Yet The Mirror (and all other newspapers) refused to publish details of Paul Dance's suicide last year, when he hanged himself after seriously debilitating results of lens exchange surgery at Optegra Eye Hospital
I met with Moorfields Eye Hospital CEO David Probert, and Medical Director Nick Strouthidis, on 10 September 2018*
Top of my agenda was Julian Stevens, and the fact that he was referring some of his own damaged patients from his private clinic to his NHS clinic! (And believe me, there’re many, some very seriously damaged, as a Moorfields optom indiscreetly informed me when accompanying one of my MBEFoundation clients to their NHS consult).
They told me that Julian was retiring at the end of the year, as if I should be reassured that there was no need to worry as it wouldn’t be happening again, which was not quite the response I was expecting after reporting what I consider to be serious abuse of his NHS position!
Next on my agenda, for the government to acknowledge the enormity of the unregulated refractive eye surgery scandal, data for the numbers of private patients seeking aftercare from NHS must be collated, and I asked David and Nick if Moorfields would consider doing this, and lead the way for other NHS eye hospitals to follow suit.
They appeared to be entirely receptive to my suggestion, as I would expect all NHS hospitals to be - not fair to expect they should use their resources to clean up the mess caused by the private providers who continue to profit from doing so, they agreed that they would implement data collection of future patients damaged by private providers.
Read the Centre for Health and the Public Interest report:
'Where a patient is admitted to the NHS due to the fault of private healthcare, the private sector should be expected to pay for the costs incurred by NHS emergency departments for that patient’s treatment. Otherwise patients will continue to be perilously dumped back into the NHS — and we the taxpayers will have to pay the costs.’
•17 June 2019, I wrote to David Probert:
'When I met with you and Nick Strouthidis on 10 Sept 2018, I suggested that MEH should consider collecting data to show the high number of patients undergoing NHS treatment as a result of refractive surgery provided by private clinics/surgeons who refuse to provide aftercare.
Figuratively speaking, you both scratched your heads and said you’d need to think how this could be done as it wouldn’t be an easy task, and whilst I don’t accept that this information should be too difficult to collect, nine months later I wonder if you’re still considering my suggestion, or was the idea dismissed the minute I left?
You will also recall that the primary reason for our meeting was to discuss my concerns about Julian Stevens, and his private patients left with post op problems, including those he should not have operated on, and I explained that Julian had arranged for some of these patients to be referred to his MEH clinic for NHS aftercare.
You told me that Julian was retiring from the NHS at the end of the year, and I was therefore shocked when one of his colleagues informed me that he had kept his private practicing privileges at Moorfields.
Putting my concerns about his treatment of private patients aside, will you please explain why Julian Stevens is an exception to the hospital’s policy?’
•David quickly replied:
'Thank you for pointing out this inaccuracy on our website. The statement does not accurately reflect the practising privileges policy of Moorfields Private.
Consultants who have retired from Moorfields NHS are allowed to continue in Moorfields Private as long as they continue to fulfil their fitness to practice requirements of the GMC, demonstrate clinical outcomes through audit comparable to expected benchmark standards, fulfil our local mandatory training requirements and participate in satisfactory annual appraisal.
It is the decision of the medical director, as the GMC responsible officer for Moorfields, to assess whether these requirements are met and whether practising privileges can continue for each individual on a case by case basis.
Our consultants with practising privileges who have retired from the NHS have all fulfilled these requirements. In that regard, the scrutiny of the clinical practice and conduct of our retired consultants is entirely the same as for our NHS consultant staff.
Our website is about to undergo a full reconfiguration and this particular point will be addressed as part of that process.’**
So absolutely nothing was done about Julian’s abuse of the NHS, instead he was rewarded with ongoing private practising privileges on his retirement!
•21 June 2019, I continued:
As asked in my previous email, are you still considering my suggestion that MEH should consider collecting data to show the high number of patients undergoing NHS treatment as a result of refractive surgery provided by private clinics/surgeons who refuse to provide aftercare, or was the idea dismissed the minute I left our meeting on 10 Sept 2018?
I look forward to your response.’
•Same day, David replied:
Both Nick and I welcomed your suggestion which we are considering as part of our audit programme. As you can imagine we have limited resources which we must manage wisely and prioritise. This area is being actively considered for review this year.
•10 August 2020, me to David:
With the numbers of refractive patients damaged by the private sector forced to seek NHS aftercare steadily increasing, I am chasing an update re data collection as we previously discussed.
One example is M____ (dob 17 July, 19__).
After debilitating lens exchange surgery at Optical Express, Mr __ had previously undergone explanation operations at MEH, and on 25 December 2019 he attended with a retinal detachment for emergency surgery.
I look forward to your response.’
•David replied later same day:
Many thanks. I hope you are well.
I’m afraid our focus, and that of the teams here at the moment, is on service recovery and coping with the current national pandemic. We therefore haven’t got easy access to this data but I will continue to look to build a process where we can once we can commit more audit time to it.
With best wishes
Obviously I couldn't argue with that excuse (except to say there was no pandemic in 2019)…
Nearly three years since our initial meeting, and I wonder how many more thousands of patients damaged by the private sector (including Julian Stevens) have passed through the doors of Moorfields Eye Hospital and other nhs.uk hospitals, whilst the government et al ignore this massive scandal, and the BBC allow their presenters to promote it - thereby all responsible for so many who will (and have had) their eyes and lives irreparably damaged!
I am not an IT expert, but with all records computerised, I don't see the difficulty for Moorfields Eye Hospital (and others) to simply add a 'tick box’ to the records of new patients attending for treatment, highlighting the info that their problems are a result of refractive eye surgery!
However, with some of their own private surgeons responsible for damaging patients (at private wings attached to other nhs.uk hospitals too) I can see why they are so reluctant to collect this data.
I will be writing to David Probert again about this matter, and will update you.
*It should be noted that Nick Strouthidis told me that he's quite myopic, and at 44 (then) the wrong age for laser, so would be looking at Multifocal lens replacement, with which he said - and I quote - ‘there’s a significant risk’!
This was absolutely disgraceful, yet more blatant advertising and promotion of unregulated #refractivesurgery by the BBC! But I'll save my detailed criticism for part 3
As My Beautiful Eyes Foundation patient advocate, I have personally represented three people damaged by ‘Dr Julian’ at his Moorfields Private clinic, with plenty more who’ve contacted me complaining about his treatment of them.
• Left with worse vision than before laser eye surgery, Mark issued court proceedings against Julian Stevens. He had a very good case, but Julian’s MDU solicitor, Kirsty Jeeves, refused to accept service by email on 10 September 2014...
Due by 4pm that day, with little time left, Mark dashed to her office to safely hand deliver the legal paperwork.
However, Kirsty refused to open it until the next day - a day too late!!
Mark was then ill advised by a Clerkenwell court representative (hence why they are not allowed to provide legal advice!), who told him he would be better to start a new claim, instead of appealing against Miss Jeeves’ unreasonable behaviour as he should have done, because unfortunately you cannot issue legal proceedings a second time on the same point, termed an ‘abusive process of the court’.
So we went to court, and the Judge was lovely, but explained to Mark that her hands were tied as he had already issued a second claim, whilst Kirsty and Counsel sat smirking ('Dr Julian' of course nowhere to be seen).
However, whilst it was of no consolation to Mark, the Judge did clearly state that he had not lost the case, which she said he might very well have won, that it was dismissed entirely on a point of law. (She also criticised Kirsty Jeeves for her refusal to accept service an hour late on the 10 September.)
Like so many others, Mark suffers with depression as a result of #laserereyesurgery.
• As Julian clearly hand wrote in her medical notes at her initial pre operative consultation, 'Beth' suffered with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), dry eyes, and low tear film (hard copy evidence available if anyone thinks of suing me!)
All contra-indicators to laser eye surgery, yet Julian went ahead and operated!
Accompanying Beth to a later consultation with Julian Stevens, he disagreed with our argument that he should never have operated on her eyes.
He did however spend at least an hour trying to convince me that he was a wonderful surgeon, pulling out data and research papers, whilst a backlog of victims piled up in his waiting room so that his practise manager had to come in at least twice to urge him to hurry up.
Even then it seemed no-one wanted to be publicly named and shamed by me!
Beth is also left to suffer for the rest of her life, with unbearable dry eyes, fighting depression, and no legal recourse.
• Ms L was also left with severe dry eyes and nerve damage after surgery with Julian Stevens, and was not informed about the use of MMC in her lasek surgery.*
In one letter to Ms L, Julian Stevens wrote: 'the tears of depressed people have been shown to increase dry eye’.
I kid you not!
29 November 2019, Richard MacMillan, Head of Legal Services at Moorfields NHS Foundation Trust wrote, 'As outlined in my previous email, these types of claims are handled via the Consultants…'
So anyone believing that private consultants who pay for the use of nhs.uk facilities (address, operating suite) are legally covered by the NHS - think again!**
• My complaints about this at a subsequent meeting with the CEO lead to Moorfields Private surgeons providing a separate MMC consent form to patients.
**Case in point, talking to a couple at one of my many appointments at Moorfields Eye Hospital retinal clinic in 2017/18 (injections in my eye after macular edoema cause by occlusions), they told me that an elderly friend had paid to be fast tracked for NHS cataract surgery.
Because the correspondence was coming from the surgeon’s nhs.uk email address the women reasonably believed this to be the case, with no idea she was not receiving NHS treatment!
Therefore misleading that the BBC video shows the entrance to Moorfields NHS!
I am greatly concerned that private refractive surgery is so often linked to NHS hospitals, even advertised with big posters along the NHS corridors of the hospital I visited in Sheffield with a client a few years ago.
NB: Julian was previously a good ‘friend' to Optical Express, who would send their damaged patients to his private clinic, often meeting with Patrick James Green (see Optical Express Ruined My Life website for more about that man), until OERML’s presence apparently became too threatening to his reputation, and they had to move on to someone else…
Part 2 will be published later this week, and as both the CEO and MD at Moorfields Eye Hospital have an idea of what's in store, I suspect crisis talks may have been held this morning!