Monday 13 March, a long overdue meeting with a government minister
In fact, more than 8 years overdue, after previous meetings arranged with Daniel Poulter, Ben Gummer, et al, were postponed, rescheduled, postponed, cancelled, new minister, start all over again…
Simply any excuse to avoid meeting with me and then be forced to publicly address the scandal of the unregulated and often corrupt refractive eye surgery industry.
This meeting with Maria Caulfield* came about as a result of the Westminster debate, when John McDonnell asked if she would agree to meet with us - see previous posts for more info and videos. (Big thanks to Jim Shannon MP for his part in enabling this meeting.)
The three MPs were accompanied by members of their staff, with nine people in total attending the half hour meeting.
Introduced by John McDonnell, summarising with bullet points and outlining our work since 2012, stressing the urgent need for government intervention.
Handing over to me, I provided more in depth detail, the seriousness of the problems suffered by so many thousands of people, including but not limited to, blindness, suicide, job loss, litigation… especially highlighting the £zillions in cost to the NHS, left to clean up after the private sector - which I have always said would be the pressure point for the government to finally pay attention!
Lyn Brown MP continued, briefly describing the problems suffered by a few of her own constituents who‘ve been in contact with her (guaranteed there are hundreds if not thousands more) before handing over to Maria Caulfield.
I was impressed with Maria’s receptiveness, her attention and understanding of the points raised.
She agreed with me that there was a need for data to provide accurate numbers of the many thousands of people left with damaged eyes after private surgery, forced to rely on the NHS for expensive aftercare after their 12 months ‘warranty’ runs out (often sooner).
I mentioned having proposed this at a meeting with the CEO and MD at Moorfields Eye Hospital a few years ago, and that they’d agreed to do so, but that the new CEO, Martin Kuper, has to date refused to even acknowledge my existence - ignoring my email correspondence and tweets!
Having been given the lion’s share of time, even though there was plenty more to say, I managed to cover a lot of ground.
I also mentioned the ‘rabbit up my sleeve’ (preview to be publicised next month), that I have no doubt will cause embarrassment to the government when they’re asked how this could have been allowed to happen (the rabbit), the answer being lack of regulation and therefore in their interests to address this asap!
I promise you that Maria took it all very seriously, she expressed genuine concern and agreed that something has to be done!
She said she will consult with her team and see what options are available, and assumed I would be willing to engage with them further - of course!
Lots more to tell, but I don’t want to give away too much at this stage, as certain industry stakeholders will no doubt be pulling their pet MPs out of their pockets to try and stop this happening.
*Maria Caulfield MP was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care) on 17 September 2021. www.gov.uk/government/people/maria-caulfield
For background information, I had sent John McDonnell copies of correspondence with the GMC et al, and statements from a few damaged patients, and we had a Zoom meeting the day before, to discuss what the most important points were that I wanted him to mention in the debate, as he warned that he might only have a couple of minutes to speak.
Happily, he was allowed longer than expected, and was able to make reference to everything that I’d highlighted.
In summarising, Maria Caulfield said this:
‘I want to touch on the points raised by the hon. Member for West Ham (Ms Brown) about her constituent, Darren, and those raised by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). I am concerned about issues around laser surgery and the impact they are having. I am happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady, and other colleagues, to discuss that. The Care Quality Commission regulates that area, but I am concerned by the information shared today and I am happy to look at the issue further. It is important that the situation of people with minor eye ailments is not made worse by having surgery that may, or may not, be suitable for their needs.’ www.parallelparliament.co.uk/mp/maria-ca...-and-macular-disease
John had referred to refractive surgery, as I’d advised it was important to do, to mention both laser and lens exchange surgery, but the minister appeared to have little knowledge of this corrupt industry, claiming that the CQC regulate the area of laser surgery. This indicated to me that she was probably referring to the oft regurgitated Tory copy/paste party notes on this issue, though she did at least agree to John’s request to meet to discuss further.
And whilst this is more than anyone in the government has offered in six years (since my many times rescheduled meeting with health minister Daniel Poulter was finally cancelled shortly before the 2015 election, and the next with his replacement Ben Gummer, that didn’t happen in 2017), a previous meeting with DoH government officials resulted in empty promises and lies.
I spoke with John McDonnell yesterday, who confirmed that his office has now secured a date for our meeting with Maria Caulfield next month, so I can only hope that this is not postponed, or that Boris the Buffoon suddenly reshuffles the cabinet!
Fyi: 20 October 2014, prior to planned meeting with health minister Daniel Poulter, it was deemed that I should first meet with Department of Health officials at Whitehall, at which meeting I blurted out ‘bullsh*t’ a few times, interrupting their inane and monotonous bullsh*t, until they finally listened to me, for all the good it did!
The DoH officials subsequently lied to me, after my repeated emails asking when the promised meeting with Poulter was happening were ignored. They eventually responded that they had replied, but I hadn’t contacted them as they’d asked!
So I asked them to forward a copy of their alleged email correspondence, but instead they sent me only text, without header, no dates, no recipient or sender details! My request for the actual email to be forwarded to me was ignored - because of course it did not exist!
Yet another ploy for the government to avoid meeting with me, which would force them to acknowledge this scandal - and accept and admit that there is NO regulation of any worth! If any, it is self regulated.
On 6 Sep 2019, at the behest of Caroline Dinenage, I met with Deputy Director of Health and Social Care for Jennifer Benjamin, and Duncan Hall, representative from the Professional Regulation team.
After listening to my presentation, Jennifer said it’d been very interesting, and there was a lot for them to consider, but they couldn’t do anything!
A meeting with the CQC in 2019 was similarly underwhelming…
Lynn Brown’s presentation at the Westminster Hall debate on Eye Health and Macular Disease, chaired by Caroline Nokes, attended by Maria Caulfield, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Thanks to all #MBEF members who contacted their MPs asking for their presence/support at this debate on 11 January 2022
Whilst many conservative MPs disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, did not even acknowledge their constituents’ emails, the majority of those who did completely (deliberately) missed the point by regurgitating the party line.
Including Dominic Raab, who wrote to one of his constituents irreparably damaged by refractive lens exchange (RLE): ‘The NHS is receiving £2 billion this financial year, and an additional £8 billion across the next three years to help tackle backlogs caused by the pandemic, including in ophthalmic services. More broadly, the NHS’ National Eye Care Recovery Transformation programme is aiming to ensure existing funding is used more effectively to improve service quality and outcomes for patients.'
Wtf has this got to with regulation of the refractive surgery industry?
It’s a fresh spin on pre Covid copy/paste responses from assorted health ministers, spanning at least 6 years, claiming that the GMC/The Royal College of Ophthalmologists/Care Quality Commission have regulation covered.
They do not - there is NO regulation of the refractive surgery industry, that hundreds of documents in my possession unarguably prove: these include numerous GMC reports closing complaints without any action taken against the surgeons responsible for ruining people’s eyes and lives.
At short notice, with limited information her office had taken from me only the night before, Lynn Brown planned to speak after John McDonnell, her presentation therefore worded accordingly. So unexpectedly speaking first, it should be noted that she wasn’t sure at that point if she was legally allowed to name Optical Express as responsible for the damage caused to her constituent Darren Clixby (who had asked her to support John at this debate).
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
Having finally agreed to meet with me in 2014, but postponing/rescheduling at least three times in the interim, when Daniel Poulter stepped down as health minister in 2015, Seb Corbyn joked that he’d done so as a last ditch attempt to avoid meeting with me
(Dr Dan sent an email to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell saying that he'd told his successor Ben Gummer he should meet with me asap!)
I've lost count of the number of health ministers who have agreed to meet with me but cancelled at the last minute (incl Gummer), or claimed they're too busy - with more serious matters to deal with than people who've had their eyes and and lives irreparably damaged, costing NHS England and NHS Scotland untold millions in lifetime aftercare, and surgery trying to fix the damage caused by private and corrupt refractive eye surgery providers.
Greg Brady and his partner Catherine Froud met with Ranil Jayawardena MP earlier this year, and he arranged a meeting with Caroline Dinenage, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, within a matter of weeks - and it wasn't cancelled!
I wasn't invited, as Greg and Catherine had explained to Ranil that I needed to be, and they initially saw no point in going without me, as they told their MP. However, after discussing it at length, we decided they should not miss the opportunity to talk to at least one health minister face to face and tell them about this scandal.
Armed with documents and information I provided, including copies of copy/paste letters from various health ministers over the years - claiming all’s well with the refractive surgery industry - they met with Caroline Dinenage at the House of Commons on 20 May. They told her all about my work, my campaign, John McDonnell's involvement, etc…*
So when Greg and Catherine told me that she had promised to contact me and arrange a meeting, I didn't hold out much hope, especially as none of us received replies to our emails chasing this meeting a month later.
I therefore cannot tell you surprised I was when I received a phone call late Wednesday afternoon from the Policy Support Officer, asking me if I would meet with Jennifer Benjamin, Deputy Director of the Department of Health and Social Care, and two members of the Professional Regulation Team.
Finally, a government health minister who has listened - and actively responded!
However, I won't get excited unless I am given reason to when we meet in early September, and expect that I will still be asking for a meeting with the Minister of State for Health - whoever s/he may be after Boris has sorted out Brexit (!!)
*Following the 20 May meeting, I found a 2017 email from Caroline (before she was a minister), replying to another of her constituents damaged by laser eye surgery, who had criticised the lack of government regulation and asked for Caroline’s support, so she was aware of problems before meeting with Greg and Catherine, but didn't admit to this.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this latest bullsh*t copy/paste letter from Steve Brine, another corrupt and uninterested health minister, forwarded for my attention whilst I was in Manchester attending Dr Bobby Qureshi's MPTS hearing
I will of course be writing my response for Theresa Villiers to forward to this stupid man, who does not have a clue what he's talking about, not even understanding that laser eye surgery IS a refractive procedure, not something different!
As for his claim that, 'The Department is working closely with stakeholders... to identify where standards could be improved', not only is he lying (£££ being the only concern for this corrupt government, happy to take the industry's bribes to ignore me), but I believe the most important stakeholders are in fact the patients!
And like so many of his predecessors, he insults me and every other damaged patient by comparing refractive surgery to cosmetic procedures!
I would draw Steve Brine's attention to the current MPTS hearing, and invite him to meet just a few of Dr Bobby Qureshi's patients who are registered legally blind, having completely lost the little vision they did have prior to a totally unregulated prodecure carried out by Dr Qureshi.
Although, by the time Theresa Villiers writes to Steve Brine, he'll probably have been replaced with another useless MP who knows zilch about health issues, least of all eyes!
I arrived home from Manchester late last night, and am heading back early Monday morning, but I will update you tomorrow with a summary of yesterday's MPTS hearing.
Meanhwile, in addition to my regular work, these trips to Manchester are expensive, with train fares, accommodation, and food to pay for.
No matter how small an amount, contributions towards my costs would be very much appreciated ????
Which part of 'PLEASE PLEASE CONTACT YOUR MP' did you not understand
Addressed to each one of you damaged by this industry, yet even after my explaining how important this is, only a small percentage of you have bothered to email or call your MP!
To have teeth in parliament it is vital that your MP has knowledge of this scandal - no matter which party they belong to, because this is a cross party issue!
And of course I know the health minister will reply with a copy/paste letter, but that's fine, because what they say is bullsh*t - they have got it so wrong, and unwittingly handing us a stick to beat them with, which will be explained at a later date!
Meanwhile, to the people who've actually shown support and contacted their MP, if you haven't yet done so, please send me their name and I will add it to my list for John McDonnell's attention.
NB: If you contacted your MP a while ago, and told me at the time, please remind me to ensure I have their name on the list.
I'd really like to move on with more interesting posts, but until I see more active support for my campaign, I don't feel inclined to so do!
There are 650 MPs in parliament, and with so many thousands of damaged refractive eye surgery patients, it is statistically impossible that there is not at least one in every constituency.
I expect that most of you will have had cause to make a complaint at least once in your life, and received the response, ‘No-one else has ever complained’!
When I first met with Optimax owner Russell Ambrose, on Friday 13 May 2011 (definitely unlucky for one of us!), he told me that it was rare if he had one complaint like mine a year.
Hmmm… now I come to think about it he wasn’t lying, because it would indeed be rare if he did have ONLY one complaint a year
Those of you who have read all my posts in this thread, since 17 September, will now be in no doubt of the government’s deliberate refusal to address this scandal; denying that there is a problem, while patronising all of us damaged by this unregulated and corrupt industry with their bullsh*t letters.
The way to force the government to pay attention is to publicise the fact that it is costing the NHS £zillions to clean up the damage caused by private providers, and in state benefits for those no longer able to work as a result!
Most MPs hold regular constituency surgeries, where you have the right to meet with them - no matter who you voted for!
I recently asked some of my strongest supporters and campaigners if they’d contacted their MP, and these were a few of the replies!
1. 'My MP is useless.’ It doesn't matter, we need your concerns on record!
2. 'I did a long time ago but didn't get a reply.’ Try again until you do!
3. ‘I haven’t had time, but he’s a Tory so it's not worth it.’
(i) If I have time to do what I do then you sure as hell have time!
(ii) Some Tory MPs are supportive, including my own - it’s the government ministers who toe the party line!
(iii) They are there to act on behalf of their constituents.
4. ‘I will…' When??
The reason you need to meet your MP - unless physically impossible - is because meeting a damaged patient face to face and hearing their story is far more emotive than any written words.
One damaged patient recently met with her MP who was completely shocked, and apparently moved to tears when he heard her story. He has since contacted me and John McDonnell to offer support for our campaign.
And if we only have 100 MPs reacting like this it’s enough to spread the word and cause the government to think about their involvement with, and support for, this corrupt industry!
And trust me, there is total involvement from some government members - entirely financial!
Many of you reading this would not be receiving NHS treatment or legal representation without my help, and luckily I ask very little in return, because that’s exactly what I get!
And with a few exceptions, the majority of you have no idea of the amount of time and effort I put into my work, juggling a dozen balls and more - every day! I won't argue that it is my choice to do so - at the expense of my health (and sanity at times) - but when I’m faced with apathy and defeat from those I’m representing, I have to question why I’m bothering!
I could have sold out to the industry years ago, for more money than I’d ever need - but I didn’t, and I never will!
So help me out here, PLEASE PLEASE contact your MP, because when I do at long last meet with the health minister - any health minister (Steve Barclay current favourite) - we need as many MPs as possible onboard to add their voices in parliament.
But the only way they'll know about this scandal is if YOU tell them!
I need active support from all of you, and if you don’t know who your MP is check here: www.writetothem.com
Google their home page, where you’ll find the constituency office phone number listed. Call to ask to meet with them, and don’t give up until you do!
And when you have a response, please let me know!
And if you’re in Steve Barclay’s North East Cambridgeshire constituency, his numbers are: 01354 656635/0207 219 7117
I’d intended closing for the weekend with a different image, as you’re probably bored reading the same copy/paste letters from government health ministers - as I have done for SEVEN years - but yet another from Steve Barclay arrived in my mailbox this afternoon
Earlier this year I was contacted by a family member of an Optical Express damaged patient; unable to work, suffering with painful and poor vision, and depression, desperately needing reparative surgery. Unless resolved this man will remain dependant on state benefits to support his family, a perfect example of cause and effect.
Cause: No regulation + refusal by providers to provide aftercare.
Effect: Damaged patients + NHS costs.
In 2012 a little birdie told me that Optical Express had appointed Lord Jack McConnell to the board as a non-executive director, because David Moulsdale knew that I would get this to parliament, and Jack would then lobby ministers on their behalf.
And he did!
On 20 November 2103, John McDonnell presented a Private Members Bill calling for government regulation of this corrupt industry.
For three weeks prior to this, Lord Jack McConnell repeatedly called John’s office trying to get a meeting with him. John refused to speak with him, but as we later learnt, Jack did manage to lobby corruptible MPs - a practise that OE has continued with MPs who are willing to take bribes in one form or another!
A few months later Russell Ambrose tried his luck!
John forwarded this to me (with a comment that I won’t publish, but translated roughly = ????)
In the same way that he'd ignored Lord Jack McConnell, John intended to ignore Russell too, but I had a more amusing suggestion!
Back to serious…
The government have proven that they have no concern for the tens of thousands of damaged eyes and lives, nor for the thousands yet to come. But, just like the industry responsible, they do care about ££££!
These are approximate NHS costs:
• £45 per GP visit.
• £108 per A&E visit.
• £110 per hospital outpatient visit - assuming you don’t see the consultant.
• £963 per lens extraction +IOL insertion.
Next week I will explain how each of you can help me make the government listen to us!
Steve Barclay’s letter was a result of Karen Smith having met with her MP, Nigel Mills, asking him to support the campaign for regulation, explaining that she is now dependant on the NHS for aftercare.
At least the writer was observant enough to replace ‘laser surgery’ with 'eye lens surgery’ in yet another copy/paste letter.
But other than that, the small selection of letters I’ve published, from health ministers and Dept of Health officials, are fit for nothing more than a game of Snap!
And while Karen - and untold thousands of other people damaged by the private sector - is being treated by the NHS, many more are being refused urgently needed treatment.