'Every month, Mr Brady, who was a carpenter but wanted to become a professional boxer, spends £170 on eye drops and tablets and has spent thousands on procedures with other surgeons in an effort to restore some quality of vision.
He says that when he visited Accuvision’s website he didn’t see anything about potential risks. He says he had only one consultation before the procedure.
“The surgery only lasted 20 minutes and that included my questions. I could smell my eyes burning and it was acutely painful. I thought ‘this is not right’ but you put your trust in the clinic. They told me everything was normal and to go home and the pain would subside. But it didn’t and my vision didn’t return.”
Two independent consultant ophthalmologists have since advised that the procedure provided by Accuvision was unsuitable for Mr Brady’s eyes. The consent form he signed before handing over his £3,500 fee allowed for “medically non qualified” assistants to “enter data into the laser computer” and conduct the “application of laser and insertion of bandage contact lens”, a practice which an ophthalmologist has told The Times is prohibited and breaches General Medical Council rules.
Accuvision declined the opportunity to discuss Mr Brady’s case, saying it did not want to “infringe our duties of confidentiality”.
Britain’s biggest laser eye clinics are failing to outline the risks of surgery in their advertising as fears grow over the long-term side-effects of the treatment.
Almost every clinic is ignoring guidelines issued by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to help patients make informed choices, an investigation by The Times has found.
Most of the adverts do not even mention there might be any downside to the procedure, which can cost up to £6,500.
Yet a clinical trial published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America last year found that almost half of people who had healthy eyes before treatment developed some visual symptoms, such as glare, halos, and starbursts after the surgery. Nearly a third developed dry eyes, a condition that can cause discomfort.
A small number of patients also suffer complications that can cause permanent or serious vision loss.
Most ophthalmologists, and the royal college, say side-effects are usually mild and improve within a few months. In Britain, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, as it then was, approved laser eye surgery in 2006 after a study by the University of Aberdeen found the procedure gave most patients 20/20 vision and that serious damage to sight was rare.
However, some patients say they have suffered long-term problems and one of the FDA officials involved in the treatment’s approval in America is now campaigning to reverse the decision. Every year more than 100,000 Britons have the surgery, which uses a laser to reshape the cornea to treat long and short sightedness. The procedure is not available on the NHS and costs about £3,000 on average.
The Royal College issued voluntary guidelines last year on how to advertise the surgery. They state that every advert should carry a disclaimer that says all eye surgery carries “a level of risk including not obtaining the desired outcome through to varying levels of visual loss”. The guidelines discourage celebrity endorsements and say that if they are used, the advert should include a declaration of the financial relationship between the clinic and celebrity. The package of measures bans time-limited deals, financial inducements and offers, such as “buy one get one free”.
However, only one of ten adverts The Times found online complied with the guidelines. Adverts for the three biggest high street providers, Optical Express, Utralase and Optimax all breached the guidelines. None carried the disclaimer, and the Optical Express and Optimax adverts did not declare anything on the risks. Optical Express also offered a financial inducement while Optimax had an endorsement from Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, the ski jumper, without explaining whether he paid for his surgery. The only advert that complied with the guidelines was for the Centre for Sight.
Sasha Rodoy, who set up mybeautifuleyes.co.uk to campaign against the industry after she was left with vision problems, described the adverts as “despicable” and “dishonest”.
Mike Burdon, president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, implored clinics to follow the code. “The problem is that we are not a regulatory authority so we have no power to enforce it. Having said that, the guidance was based on General Medical Council (GMC) guidance so any doctors contravening it may have to explain themselves to the GMC.”
A spokesman for the Optimax and Ultralase brands, which are owned by the same company, said: “We strive to comply with the Royal College’s advice as far as possible, and in the majority of cases we do. However, there will be occasional instances in which it is difficult to do so fully. We believe that our communications with patients are responsible and ethical, and closely adhere to the Royal College’s wider recommendations with respect to standards of patient care.” Optical Express said: “We are committed to advertising our services to the public in a socially responsible manner, following guidelines set out for advertising by the appropriate regulators.”'
Four dry years without press, thanks to Luther Pendragon and Optical Express, but the gloves are off now boys!
'Dr. Cynthia MacKay, one of the few ophthalmologists who has spoken out against the procedure, said the surgery can injure the eye because it severs tiny corneal nerves, thins the cornea and makes it weaker, and permanently alters the shape of the eye.
She said after Lasik, all people lose contrast sensitivity, the ability to distinguish between shades of gray, to some degree. It is an elective procedure, she emphasized, that does not provide any benefits that cannot be obtained with glasses or contact lenses.
I corresponded with Dr Cynthia Mackay last year, when she told me that she was working with a NYT journalist trying to expose this scandal, and it's great news that Rona Caryn Rabin succeeded in getting her article to print - for all of us worldwide!
'Lack of precise information about complications is a problem that plagues many medical devices, which are tested by manufacturers and often gain F.D.A. approval before long-term outcomes are known, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research in Washington.
“The F.D.A. keeps promising to do a better job of post-market surveillance, but there is no evidence of real improvement,” she said.
Many ophthalmologists insist Lasik is the safest procedure done on the eye — some say the safest medical procedure, period — and serious complications are “exceedingly rare.”
Patients’ vision may regress after surgery, and they may need to use eyeglasses at times, some concede. But most Lasik surgeons maintain that soreness, dry eyes, double vision and other visual aberrations like those suffered by Mr. Ramirez subside within months for most patients.*
That was the case for Justin Puglisi, 39, a letter carrier active in the Air National Guard. He experienced dry eyes for a few weeks after undergoing laser vision correction last September but no longer needs to use wetting eye drops.
“Over all, it is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” said Mr. Puglisi, who lives in Baldwin, N.Y.'
I have a recording of Optical Express surgeon Jonathan Carr telling one of my MBE clients that dry eye syndrome is - and I quote - ‘incurable’!
Not for one nanosecond do I believe that Mr Puglisi was a random satisfied lasik patient, and nor do I accept that his dry eyes magically healed after a few weeks.
He either did not have dry eyes, or they were so mild to be inconsequential, or, he still has dry eyes.
Now let me join up the dots for you...
• The Air National Guard is of course part of the United States Air Force.
• Dr Steven Schallhorn was instrumental in the FDA approving lasik.
• Schallhorn was a pilot in the US Navy. (current IMAB member, and previous Optical Express Chief MD until he jumped ship to join his pal Jim Mazzo at Zeiss in 2016).
• Schallhorn and his cohorts are active members of the ASCRS, as is Dr Eric Donnenfeld, Mr Puglisi’s lasik surgeon.
'Dr Schallhorn is the founder of the Department of Defense refractive surgery program which now consists of over 20 centers providing mission-enhancing surgery to active duty personnel. He has led many studies on the safety and effectiveness of eye surgery with a special emphasis on evaluating the physiologic impact of environmental extremes, such as hypoxia, hypobaria, as well as the quality of vision. He has presented to the FDA numerous times and was instrumental in the approval of many ophthalmic devices.’** www.refractivealliance.com/members/sschallhorn
So when journalist Rona Caryn Rabin asked questions of the US refractive industry, I have no doubt they put their horrid heads together and came up with Justin Puglisi as their poster boy.***
It's because this industry is so incestuous that they have got away with legally damaging people for so long, and with their slimy tentacles tightly wrapped around government officials and others with bribes, that's why it's such a fight to get this scandal publicised!
But we're getting there!
*Important note! While lasik is the most common laser eye surgery procedure on sale, the only real difference with lasek and PRK is that no flap is cut, but the cornea is similarly burned away and the side effects and complications generally the same.
ALL refractive eye surgery procedures are risky, and ALL are causing major problems for patients: including IOLs, and lens exchange - aka RLE/NLR/NLE, the removal of healthy natural lenses immorally sold to people as an alternative to redaing glasses!
In comparison with the UK, lens exchange in the US is in its infancy, but as more surgeons realise that it's way more lucrative than laser, the numbers of patients reporting problems with these ops will soon escalate.
UK patients reporting serious issues following these ops initially started contacting me in mid 2014, and I predicted that lens exchange would catch up with - if not overtake - post op laser problems.
And sure enough, four years on the numbers have rocketed!
***Read the small print under the photo in the NYT article, and - if your eyes are good enough, you'll see that it's allegedly Justin Puglisi undergoing surgery. I'm not aware of patients being automatically filmed, certainly not in the the UK, so call me a conspiracy theorist if you must, but quite a coincidence that they had Mr Puglisi's op on film!
I knew what was coming two weeks before broadcast, but I didn’t want to influence your reaction by warning you in advance, hence my somewhat enigmatic post below.
And if anyone doesn’t understand why I’m angry with the ROP programme producers then you need to read the post again!
I expect David Moulsdale breathed a sigh of relief when he watched Rip Off Britain, because I doubt that the report will make much of a dent in Optical Express' profits, not least because the lies they provided in their right of reply went unchallenged by the BBC.
OE said that Dr Joanna McGraw’s damaged patient Tony Wilkinson doesn't need dark glasses for his photophobia, just as they said about McGraw’s patient Stephanie Holloway, who was awarded £569,000 (plus interest) in 2014. (They would of course claim that I don’t need dark gasses if I were an OE damaged patient).
Somewhat contradictorily however, Tweedledum (aka Stephen Hannan) contacted Tony before broadcast to say they wanted him to see one of their surgeons to reassess!
When everyone has had a chance to watch this advertorial for laser eye surgery I have plenty to post about its misleading and incorrect content!
I also intend to publish some of the email correspondence I exchanged with the programme’s Creative Director, Rob Unsworth, which includes his ludicrous excuse that there wasn’t enough time to include anything from the interview I recorded at BBC Manchester studios in August.
It takes 10-15 seconds max for me to say, ‘I am a patient advocate and I represent thousands of patients damaged by the unregulated refractive eye surgery industry, including myself, and I have worked with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell since 2012 campaigning for government regulation!'
The BBC is a public service broadcaster, yet Rip off Britain deliberately withheld information that the public have a right to know!
____________________ admin: 12 June update - read 'Suing Optical Express' topic for my recent post explaining the likely reason for my interview was dropped
When the Rip Off Britain researcher contacted me, just over two months ago, I was dubious about wasting my time, because two other programmes had previously contacted me in 2015 and 2016, but neither went ahead.
Once assured that the Rip Off Britain piece on Optical Express and laser eye surgery had definitely been commissioned I happily invested an enormous amount of my time, and provided all the information/documentation they asked for - and more!
At very short notice I contacted a number of OE’s damaged patients willing to be interviewed on camera, but they pushed me for more ’shocking’ cases, operated on no earlier than 2016, telling me that otherwise the piece would be dropped.
Eventually two people filmed interviews, but they have only focused on one, Tony Wilkinson.
I was not overly concerned about being included in the piece, as long as the campaign and OERML were mentioned - until they sent me the intended running order!
This included, “An interview with the RCOphth, providing consumer advice for people who might want to get laser eye surgery”.
I explained that the RCOphth are totally biased and should absolutely NOT be trusted to provide potential consumers with advice, especially after claiming a specious 95% satisfaction rate in their 'refractive surgery standards' advertorial published earlier this year, masquerading as truth!!
It is MY job to provide consumers with advice - with honest information about the very real risks of this unregulated surgery! So if the RCOphth had a voice, then I must too!
This was echoed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and a BBC health correspondent who previously investigated OE, and the programme producers then agreed I would be included.
On 31 August I travelled to the BBC studios in Manchester, knowing of course that the two hours interview I gave would be chopped to less than a minute. But as long as My Beautiful Eyes campaign for government regulation was mentioned, anything else would be a bonus.
Keep in mind that I have fought hard for SIX YEARS trying to get national TV cover, so I was incredibly excited, reasonably expecting that this exposé, finally broadcast on a prime time consumer programme, would lead to more media exposure for the campaign.
I promised myself a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t publish further comment about the report until after broadcast tomorrow, when I will have plenty to say!
And I have no doubt that many of you will also have a lot to say after watching it, and I will provide the email address for the person you will want to say it to!
NB: This includes people who have already contacted me as I have no time to go through my files!
Advertorial from The Mail on Sunday, published 23 July...
The Mail have now published two lengthy exposés about the London Eye Hospital owner and ophthalmic surgeon Bobby Qureshi, written by journalist Jo Macfarlane.
Yet they totally ignored the story about Optical Express optom John Margetts, whose registration was suspended by the General Optical Council last week.
Equally worth telling, surely?
And, as many of you know, Optical Express issued legal proceedings against Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) after publication of The Daily Mail story on 5 January 2015.
You may then reasonably ask, why oh why would ANL now give free advertising to Optical Express?
Well I do know why!
In February this year Optical Express suddenly withdrew their claim (approx £21.5 million), and my next instalment of NMMNG will detail all I know about their financial settlement with ANL, information the latter's legal teams asked me not to publish.
I agreed, but on one condition...
They reneged, because I am now surplus to requirements!
Therefore they no longer have my silence, and all will be revealed soon
"One 77-year-old, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she felt she was a ‘victim’ of ‘unscrupulous’ practices after paying £25,000 for iolAMD lenses in 2014. They made no difference to her vision – and she was registered blind a year later."
"Another patient was also told – as were other patients who spoke to this newspaper – that both eyes had to be fitted with the lenses, at additional cost, ‘for balance’."
Where have I heard that before
"The Harley Street clinic has also been advising patients to obtain a prescription for its own-brand vitamin supplement MacuLEH Light which it claims is available via the NHS.
At approx £90 for a three month supply, just like Optical Express et al, Bobby Qureshi is also directing patients to bleed the NHS - at profit to himself!!
"A GMC spokesman confirmed that Mr Qureshi was under investigation but a full hearing, where he would face any charges, had not been scheduled. The investigation may be dropped if officials decide there is not enough evidence.”
Unlike the GOC, I have yet to see the GMC take any of the numerous complaints from damaged patients to a Fitness To Practise hearing!
Fao journalists reading this, I can provide you with numerous copies of GMC expert reports that reached the same following decision EVERY time!
Quote, 'In my opinion the overall standard of care offered by Dr X to Patient A falls below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent Consultant Ophthalmologist…
In my opinion the standard of care offered by Dr X to Patient A did not fall seriously below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent Consultant Ophthalmologist.’*
If I didn’t know what I do now, I would expect a Consultant Ophthalmologist to be HIGHLY competent!
"A spokesman for Mr Qureshi and the London Eye Hospital said: 'Mr Qureshi is fully co-operating with the GMC and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage other than to say that he expects that the GMC will exonerate him in its investigation.’”
Of that you can be sure, because the GMC fall into the same category as the RCOphth, both charities funded by surgeon members, and - no better than Trustpilot - keeping the hands that £feed£ them happy!
The corruption and/or immorality within these organisations is beyond sickening, and MUST be exposed soon!
Having dismissed her first complaint, the GMC reconsidered after the high profile trial in 2014, when Stephanie Holloway was awarded £569k on lack of informed consent alone.
This was their decision in June 2015...
Yet two years later the damaged patients keep on coming.
Just like the RCOphth, the GMC are not fit for purpose!
Although the interview I gave to BBC Points West on Friday lasted approx 15 minutes, I was conscious that only a brief clip would be used, so I ensured every point made was hard-hitting!
I slated the government, naming three health ministers who've put off meeting with me since 2013 - Philip Dunne the most recent (see below), dismissed the CQC as useless, praised the GOC for their action against John Margetts, unlike the GMC who refuse to impose sanctions against refractive surgeons repeatedly damaging patients, explained that OE now provide only 12 months aftercare, so costing the NHS untold £millions to clean up their mess (OE recently suggested the NHS should pay £50 for a damaged patient’s records), and vehemently criticised the Royal College of Ophthalmologists for their revised refractive surgery standards that read like an advertorial for refractive surgery - written primarily by refractive surgeons!
I explained Dr David Teenan’s part in these, and that, even though the College trustees were given legal evidence that OE’s Medical Director is being sued by many damaged patients, they considered it appropriate to include him in writing new standards, that Optical Express now refuse to accept, while excluding me at the behest of a corrupt businessman to keep them happy!
I explained the fact that David Moulsdale has (allegedly) funded another organisation to write conflicting standards to suit OE's own modus operandi, with David Teenan leading that panel, alongside Dr Jan Venter and Tweedledum (seriously), and the College STILL say he can stay!! (More on this to come.)
Amazing how much I can say in such a short space of time!
Overall I was very happy with the interview, but not satisfied with my answer to the final question about regulation, unsuccessfully trying to condense enough words to fill a page into just twenty seconds with no time to amend!!
Unfortunately of course this was the clip they used - perhaps because it was the least contentious as they had no time to run my other claims past lawyers!
However, thanks to the BBC, the dry spell is over, with more tick tocks on the horizon…
And I will publish a summary of the GOC Fitness to Practise hearing as soon as I can!
PS: A shout out to David Magee, one of OE’s in-house lawyers, whose company I enjoyed during the first two days. On the third day however, David avoided me like the plague, no doubt warned by Moulsdale to do so.
I don’t expect young David Magee to stay with OE much longer, because on the second day (before he stopped hanging out with me) he told me, prior to the hearing, he'd had no idea of OE's sales tactics.
When I mentioned that I didn’t recall OE having even one in-house lawyer when I started OERML, whereas now they have quite an extensive legal team, he sweetly flattered me (albeit unintentionally) and said it was because of me!
I suspect he might be looking for another job tomorrow
No originality - other than mention of election - simply copy/paste provided by DoH officials, same bullsh*t in all similar letters from health ministers to MPs!
And the reference to 'refractive laser eye surgery' ignores the increasing problems with lens exchange procedures, cataract surgery scandalously sold as a barbaric option to simply wearing reading glasses, resulting in so many undergoing explant surgery at enormous cost to the NHS!