NHS in bed with OE (9 May) 23 May 2018 14:46 #61
The NHS is already in crisis, and the guaranteed fallout of a union with Optical Express doesn’t bear thinking about
Bad enough that untold thousands of patients damaged by refractive surgery are already forced to rely on the NHS for aftercare, and that Optical Express have targeted NHS staff and emergency service workers with their Thanks A Million advertising scam, so I expect you’ll be as horrified as I was to be told that Optical Express are courting the NHS for contracts to treat the overflow of cataract patients!
I understand that two NHS officials visited 200 St Vincent Street earlier this year and met with OE’s Performance Director David Shirra: they looked at documents, were shown reviews (presumably not OERML therefore not fully informed), discussed the company’s Duty of Candour, and were accompanied on a guided tour of the operating facilities by Tweedledum (aka Stephen Hannan).
'Every year around 1.6 million people in this country undergo surgery at a private hospital. While many pay for it themselves, it is estimated that around half of the inpatients are funded by the NHS.
This is done to help clear waiting lists and for these patients in particular, it can seem like they’ve hit the jackpot: going private may seem like the health equivalent of flying first class or booking into a top restaurant.
Most private hospitals don't have emergency care facilities meaning that if something goes wrong, patients need to be rushed to the nearest NHS hospital.’
According to the report referred to in this article, 6,000 people need NHS care after bungled private treatment every year.
But after publication of the CHPI report I spoke with its author Colin Leys, and no stats were included for refractive eye surgery patients attending NHS hospitals, which I have no hesitation in claiming might near enough double the 6,000 figure.
And until the government investigate this scandal, and the NHS produce statistics, my claim is as valid as the industry's claimed '95% success rate'!
And I guarantee that numbers will rocket even higher if the NHS outsource cataract ops to OE!
In 2014 I published details about Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, where a private healthcare company was appointed to help clear a backlog of NHS cataract patients, but after only sixty-two of an intended four hundred operations, performed by two surgeons, thirty-one patients suffered problems, with eighty-four year old Michael Newcombe left blind in one eye.
'Both surgeons were “comfortable” with the caseload at the start of the contract, but the Trust’s investigation said that “the pressures of operating on 20 patients each day may have contributed to the possible deterioration of surgical quality and reduction of patient experience”.'
'Marked “strictly confidential”, the report reveals that Vanguard agreed to perform 20 cataract operations a day, at least six more than the hospital’s own surgeons would usually undertake.'
So NHS surgeons would expect to perform only fourteen cataract ops a day, yet a single Optical Express surgeon can routinely be expected to perform twenty-six RLE ops in one day if enough patients have been pressured into buying this unnecessary surgery!
'The NHS is now paying out for compensation claims and there is no indication that it will be able to recoup the damages paid...
Michael Newcombe later underwent successful surgery to remove the cataract in his left eye, thanks to Musgrove’s own [NHS] consultants. He has also had surgery to reduce the discomfort in the injured eye, but he remains functionally blind in that eye. Now, he is being paid “substantial” damages, running into tens of thousands of pounds, for his ordeal.
But the damages are being paid by the NHS, not the companies involved.'
‘The safety of thousands of NHS patients “outsourced” to the private sector has been called into into serious doubt by a confidential report revealing how dozens were left in severe pain by botched eye surgery carried out by private contractors.’
The NHS needs to exercise extreme caution before getting into bed with Optical Express, because otherwise they can expect to be paying out way more than they did after the Musgrove Park catastrophe!
While thousands of Optical Express patients left with problems have no choice but to rely on the NHS for aftercare, most consultants are understandably not happy about this. And I’ve seen letters to OE and other private clinics, telling them that they should be taking responsibility for their patients, not burdening the NHS with the cost.
Unfortunately some consultants voice this opinion to the patient, and one person who contacted me refused reparative NHS treatment because they were made to feel guilty.
While their objections are entirely justified, it’s the government they should be complaining to, not the damaged and fragile victims of an unregulated industry who have nowhere else to turn to but the NHS.
But this is a corrupt and incestuous industry, and finding a surgeon willing to put their head above the parapet publicly is almost as difficult as it's been for me to get this scandal publicised.*
In the meantime, as I ask time and time again, and will keep on asking - if you're receiving NHS treatment following eye surgery at Optical Express or any other private clinic, or are unemployed as a result, it’s crucial that you PLEASE PLEASE contact your MP and tell them!
Even more so if the NHS intend to hand out cataract contracts to OE!
*The reason for this was finally disclosed to me last week, and if you have a low opinion of Optical Express now, I guarantee you'll be disgusted when I tell you what they've been up to!
For legal reasons I'm unable to publish details just yet.
Thanks A Million scam (27 April) 23 May 2018 13:35 #62
Last year Optical Express launched ‘Thanks A Million’ PR campaign, dangerously offering emergency service workers the chance to win free laser eye surgery, claiming to be giving away £1million of laser eye surgery to the UK’s ‘wonderful workers’
On 19 July 2017 I wrote, 'This is scary and of great concern! www.opticalexpress.co.uk/thanks-a-million
Sickening, because OE’s desperate advertising team are obviously alluding to terrorist attacks, purporting to be rewarding the emergency services involved!
Given the number of post op problems suffered by their customers, OE might as well be working with Isis/Daesh!
The targeted Emergency Service workers are integral to the UK’s health and safety infrastructure, and if damaged by OE, they will not only lose their jobs, but the country will lose their valuable skills!
I already represent clients from all these emergency services, and hope that if reading this, they will share OERML wherever possible to stop others in their profession putting their healthy eyes at risk!
Sadly ironic that so many of OE’s damaged patients are forced to rely on the NHS for aftercare and OE are now targeting these very people!’
However nauseating, 'Thanks A Million’ was a genius marketing scam, designed by PR coupling Sophie Simons and Steven Taylor, circumventing the ICO enforcement notice issued against Optical Express in December 2014, after 4,600 people had complained of being bombarded with texts inviting them to enter a competition to win free eye surgery - I was one of these people, which was unfortunate for OE as I contacted the Daily Mail!
“When a data subject gives consent they must be informed about the processing to take place, including who by and what for. In no other way can consent be said to be ‘informed’. [The words informed & consent keep popping up everywhere when talking about Optical Express!]
If the data subject doesn’t know what products might be marketed then how can he exercise his right to object?”
The ICO said it was a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, quite simply, it's against the law to send unsolicited texts for marketing purposes without the recipient’s prior consent.
Andy Curry, the ICO Enforcement Group Manager, said, 'We have issued this enforcement notice as a warning to the company that using people’s data without their consent is not acceptable. Any breach of the notice would be a criminal offence.’
A spokesman from Optical Express said they would be lodging an appeal.
As they so often do, Optical Express lost their appeal.
The 'Thanks A Million’ promo video - launched on OE's Instagram yesterday - shows five NHS/emergency service workers who received free laser eye surgery.
With untold thousands of OE patients totally reliant on the NHS, thanks to OE’s withdrawal of aftercare beyond 12 months post op, including the rapidly escalating numbers of lens explants being carried out at Moorfields London eye hospital and elsewhere across the country, this comes at enormous cost to the NHS.
And if Optical Express gave away £1million worth of treatment then I estimate there to be 200-250 beneficiaries**, and with an estimated 30% patients (minimum) left with issues after laser eye surgery, incl the most common problems of dry eyes and glare/starbursts, then I’m guessing 60-75 of these unlucky winners will be suffering!
And of course I am sure that this clever PR campaign will allow OE to now legally spam family and friends, because the applicants were asked to provide their social media page links when they filled in the online form (now closed).
And many of the thousands who applied for free laser surgery, but were deemed unsuitable, will definitely have been unscrupulously pressured into buying unnecessary lens exchange (RLE), with a £500 discount carrot of course!
As I said in July 2017, scary and of great concern, and Isis/Daesh should be impressed: Optical Express attacking the heart of the UK emergency services without a suicide bomber!
What especially upset me about this video was the firefighter, knowing that the very real likelihood of him suffering dry eyes will be the end of his career.
I know one paramedic whose future employment is currently in the balance after RLE, and another, an anaesthetist now in his late thirties, struggling to cope in the operating theatre with chronic dry eyes - ten years after laser, and too many more wretched stories like these.
And it’s early days before Thanks A Million casualties start to google "Optical Express problems" and find OERML, because they’re still in the honeymoon period, wanting to believe OE’s tired mantra, ‘Some people take longer to heal… give it another three months, six months, a year…’
And the whammy is that those unlucky Thanks A Million winners will, without doubt, be relying on the NHS for aftercare by 2019!
IMPORTANT REMINDER: so VERY VERY important that you contact your MP and tell them if you’re having NHS treatment as a result of damaging refractive surgery, because this is the stick Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and I intend to beat the government with!
*I'm quoted in the Mail article as saying that I had no idea how OE got my phone number. Regular readers know that David Moulsdale has my personal phone number, but my vintage Nokia pictured in the article has an old PAYG SIM card, and I keep the phone for emergencies. OE did not have that number.
**I trust that Optical Express can provide the ASA/CAP with proof of their selfless benevolence!
Jeremy Hunt's hypocrisy (22 April) 23 May 2018 13:19 #63
Not just social media ’turning blind eye’, Jeremy Hunt's been doing it since I first contacted him in 2012, immediately after he replaced Andrew Lansley - who also ignored the scandal!
'Jeremy Hunt was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 8 January 2018. He was appointed Secretary of State for Health in September 2012.’
Hunt must have something on this government because I see no other reason for this totally inept Health Secretary keeping his job for SIX years!
And I promise you, he knows all about the refractive surgery industry scandal.
PS: 'Jeremy Hunt saved nearly £100,000 in tax on his purchase of seven flats after exploiting a loophole in the Tory crackdown on buy-to-let landlords.'
Analogy or metaphor 14 Apr 2018 23:13 #64
Talking with a neighbour’s gardener yesterday, I mentioned that I’m planning to remove a strip of stony path in my garden and replace it with grass.
Good idea he said, and then suggested that I rip up all the grass and replace it with synthetic grass, because it would save time and money on maintenance!
I was quite taken aback, because I expect a gardener to be passionate about living plants, and abhor the concept of destroying vegetation.
And while some of you might like plastic grass, the only place I want to see it is lining a greengrocer’s shelves!
This gardener was wearing tinted prescription specs, and I regret not having asked him whether he would similarly consider having his natural healthy lenses removed and replacing them with plastic ones.
Johnson & Johnson Vision 30 Mar 2018 18:31 #66
Like many of you, I grew up with Johnson & Johnson products, and have bought their cotton buds for longer than I can remember...
But you are no doubt asking, what could Johnson's baby powder possibly have to do with eyes?
Trust me, the dots will join up by the time you finish reading this
In 2016, when Optical Express blatantly began to refuse aftercare to damaged patients en masse, and discontinued their guaranteed lifetime free eye tests, a reliable source told me that David Moulsdale was consolidating his assets in preparation to exit Optical Express.
'The IMAB [International Medical Advisory Board] consists of several of the world’s leading ophthalmic surgeons and opinion leaders, who provide our surgeons with continuous assessmentand education*, allowing them to stay at the forefront of corrective eye surgery.'
Don't be fooled, IMAB is not a recognised scientific body in the UK - or anywhere else, nothing more than an OE advertising tool to impress customers, because with ‘international surgeons' on board the uninformed would naturally accept that OE must be highly respected worldwide. Whereas the truth is, it’s all about money for each and every one of them!
*I once wrote to David Moulsdale asking him to provide IMAB's assessment criteria for surgeons, and dates of such assessments, but strangely enough he didn't answer me.
And two OE surgeons told me when I asked that they had NEVER attended an IMAB assessment in all the years they’d been there, and not once invited to an overseas conference!
One for the ASA methinks.
The members of this sham International Medical Advisory Board are paid approx £20k a year, for their names to be used by OE and to attend annual conferences (in reality a party for the boys, with only one female member, and I’m told that very few of the men take their wives along.)
Refractive ophthalmologist Dr Stephen Coleman is a member, usually found on the tennis courts at IMAB conferences.
In 2016 I was contacted by lawyers in New Mexico representing one of Dr Coleman's damaged patients. They wanted info about Dr Steve Schallhorn who was acting as Coleman’s medicolegal expert, both IMAB members and another perfect example of the incestuous nature of this sickening industry.
As usual, the case was settled out of court in 2017 and the damaged patient signed a gagging order.
For newcomers, Steve Schallhorn was OE's Global Medical Director before jumping ship to work with his buddy Jim Mazzo at Carl Zeiss, and according to OE’s website Schallhorn surprisingly remains as IMAB chairman, although I’m told that German IMAB member Burkhard Dick has taken over in all but name. But hey, what's in a name... (C’mon, you couldn't expect me to ignore that!)
David Moulsdale hosts the IMAB conferences in whichever part of the world he can afford - Cayman Islands in 2012, and Glasgow in 2013. So with his company finances still in crisis, you might be surprised to hear that next month's IMAB conference is apparently being held in Washington.
And finally we reach the connection to talcum powder!
As mentioned in my 16 March post, Johnson & Johnson acquired Abbott Medical Optics (AMO) in 2016. Steve Schallhorn and Moorfields surgeon Julian Stevens both lucratively paid consultants for AMO, and Schallhorn holding shares in the company btw.
'The all-cash $4.325 billion acquisition was originally announced Sept. 16, 2016, and includes ophthalmic products in three areas of patient care: cataract surgery, laser refractive surgery and consumer eye health. These product lines will now join with the world-leading ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses business, and the combined organization will operate under the brand name Johnson & Johnson Vision (J&J Vision).'
OE internal sources have told me that David Moulsdale is allegedly negotiating with Johnson & Johnson to buy Optical Express, meetings planned while he’s in Trump country for the IMAB conference (makes sense to save on air fares when your company is in deep sh*t financially).
When looked at under this new light, OE’s withdrawal of aftercare and lifetime eye tests for their customers makes more sense, because although not my area of expertise even I can appreciate that no-one would want to buy a company haemorrhaging money, burdened with countless damaged patients and giving free aftercare to tens (100s?) of thousands more!
If Johnson & Johnson Vision are in negotiations to acquire Optical Express, I suspect that David Moulsdale has not been entirely honest about the true state of affairs within his company, and I think that they, and their shareholders, should be enlightened.
Not least because Johnson & Johnson have enough bad publicity with legal claims of ovarian cancer caused by their talcum powder - 5,500 according to press reports - do they really want more?
Eye eye... 22 Mar 2018 22:28 #67
At Moorfields Eye Hospital this afternoon for another monthly injection in my eye
Please note that this was Moorfields NHS hospital, not to be confused with Moorfields Private across the road in the commercial Arthur Steele Unit, where purveyors of unnecessary elective refractive surgery misleadingly use NHS email addresses for their office staff.
This was my 5th injection, and I was dreading it, because the one I had last month was so incredibly painful that I lay there screaming ‘Fuuuuuuuuuu…’ in an attempt not to leap off the table with the needle hanging from my eye! (Tarantino’s ‘Hostel' springs to mind)
So while I was waiting, trying not to stress, cursing Russell Ambrose and Optimax and the entire industry for the fact that I was there at all, I realised that in one respect at least Optimax is not as bad as Optical Express. (Don't get excited Russell, you f*cked my eyes and my life, and there’s no 'get out of jail free' card for you as long as both of us live!)
This is because, unlike Optical Express, Optimax & Ultralase (both owned by Russell Ambrose) don't advertise carrots in the form of spectacles.
As I’ve published previously, Optical Express salespeople and optometrists are paid fat bonuses and incentives to ‘switch’ specs wearers to refractive surgery, no matter if the person isn’t suitable.
But in respect of the latter, Optimax is no different, me being a case in point!
Optometrist Swati Malkan was paid to sell me surgery that was 100% unsuitable - as an internal Optimax email thread admitted, only disclosed under my second Subject Access Request to Russell Ambrose in 2017 (deceitfully not disclosed under my first SAR in 2016), and I was horrified!
With this new information the GOC reopened my complaint against Swati 'Specs Wearing’ Malkan last April, and I’m currently waiting to hear if the ongoing investigation will result in a Fitness to Practise hearing for this dishonest optom.
And in case you're wondering why I'm smiling in the photo on my way out, it's because the nurse who injected me was the best!
After I'd insisted on my eye being soaked with so much anaesthetic that one side of my mouth was numb where the liquid had leaked down my face, he was so fast that it was over before I had time to try not to blink!
Thank you Gavin!
Price scam 27 Feb 2018 20:13 #68
The day after two Lasik iDesign operations at OE’s Harley Street were sold for £4,590 and £2,990, exactly the same surgical procedure was sold at Manchester ‘clinic' for £3,990.
But the Manchester SRO (senior refractive optometrist) and PA (salesperson aka Patient Adviser/Counsellor/Refractive Technician) generously gave the customer a whopping £995 discount!
Their victim (& bonus prize) was no doubt told that there’d been a last minute cancellation, that they were really lucky not to have to wait, and if they could have surgery within FOUR DAYS they could have a huge discount too!
This would of course sound like a fantastic bargain to any unsuspecting customer...
And it begs the question, when exactly was the patient to have their consultation with the surgeon?
Possibly a quick phone call, as is OE's practice to circumvent the GMC guidance that the patient should have a consultation with the surgeon BEFORE the day of surgery!
Imagine that you’ve complained about back pain to your GP, who then refers you to a hospital, but instead of seeing the specialist you’re examined by a nurse, who tells you that you need an operation...
Then you’re told, 'You can’t meet the surgeon in person before the day of the operation but he might examine you by phone.'
But that is EXACTLY what is happening with Optical Express, and while their entire sales pitch and operation procedures contravene the GMC and RCOphth guidelines, no-one is doing a damned thing to stop it!
The truth is that OE are struggling (hence why they have so many empty surgery slots) as owner David Moulsdale told me himself when he phoned me on 2 June '17. (I’ve since discovered that it was, as suspected, Siri who called me, assuming David wanted to speak with me after he shouted my name so loudly!)
And for those of you who missed it, first posted on 5 June ’17, this is some of what I heard David Moulsdale angrily telling his colleagues, and I quote,
“I lost FOUR MILLION quid this year…"
“We’re not busy, operating on sixty percent capacity…”
“I can’t pay the surgical team a bonus on less than ten patients a day, we used to treat twenty, twenty-four patients a day… [blurred words] made four thousand a patient… retail price was more…”
“Got f*cking refunds, got f*cking complaints…"
"I’m not paying a nurse to treat less than ten patients a day - I’m not a f*cking charity, I’m not the NHS…”
“Ten patients is three hours work, no way I’m paying bonuses!”
“Four complex enhancements and three YAG a day… YAG should not be ‘treatment!’” (Presumably because bonuses are only paid on actual ‘treatments’.)
“Nurses not to be paid bonus on less than twelve patients… less than fifteen patients - NO BONUS!”
Spitting out numbers he said, “Twenty [£] at fifteen [patients], forty at sixteen, fifty at twenty…"
Then changing his mind, “Twenty, thirty, forty…”
“They [nurses] going to make a f*cking fortune!”.
I think you’ve probably read enough about OE’s sales incentives and bonuses for now, but this information is of interest to the General Optical Council (GOC), who are currently revising their standards for optical businesses.
As Optical Express is a GOC business registrant I have therefore shared all the information I have with them.
The GOC will publish a consultation draft on their site soon, and My Beautiful Eyes Foundation will be responding. I will post a link as soon as the draft is available to read.
And though I vehemently argue against refractive eye surgery being termed ‘cosmetic’, info I found on the GMC cosmetic interventions section, re 'Seeking informed consent and explaining risks’, is highly relevant to refractive eye surgery.
Do read it - and replace 'Mr Johnson' with Optical Express
Price scam 23 Feb 2018 18:53 #69
Whenever I speak with an OE damaged laser eye surgery patient for the first time, I ask which type of procedure they had.
Often I’m told, ‘The most expensive one.'
I then explain that it doesn't work like that, as this screenshot shows - £1,600 difference in price for exactly the same lasik procedure!
It works like this: if a customer says the initial quoted price is too high, that they can’t afford it - even after the Hitachi Finance option is dangled under their nose - then the tag team (optom & PA) will pretend they're going to speak to the manager or call Head Office.
They return with the ‘good news’ that they can offer a 'today only’ discounted price, but on condition the deposit is paid immediately.
Asking it it’s refundable if they don't go ahead with surgery, victim is told 'yes’. The truth is of course quite different, as can be read on the ‘DEPOSIT REFUND’ topic!
Another price pump up scam is to tell a customer with a high prescription that the procedure is therefore more expensive.
OE staff will do anything they can - beside holding the customer at gunpoint - not to lose a sale.
NB: The bonus is in addition to the percentage they’re paid in commission, proportionate to the sale amount.
One Optical Express employee - let’s call her Kate - has been with the company in Glasgow since she left school, describing herself on LinkedIn as a 'Refractive Technician & Patient Counsellor’ (aka Patient Advisor/PA)
A little birdie told me that Kate makes so much money in bonuses - virtually forcing all her customers to book surgery - that she’s now the proud owner of a house purchased with her ill gotten gains!
Kate is as despicable as David Moulsdale and his salivating lap dog Tweedles, because after ten years she has seen many thousands of patients left with irreparable problems, but is happy to keep pushing people into surgery she knows is likely to ruin their lives!
In fact, I don't believe that anyone working at OE for more than one month can claim immunity from my contempt and disgust!
So to all you OE optoms and PAs readying to finish for the day, while you're planning how to spend the money you've made in bonuses and commission, think about the part you've played in ruining so many people's eyes and lives to get that money!
And if your conscience has the slightest twinge, consider joining my little birdies...
The 'Switch'! 22 Feb 2018 19:47 #70
A patient (customer) is 'switched' when they go into an Optical Express store to buy glasses, and the salesperson and/or optometrist manages to pressure them into buying eye surgery instead!
This screenshot dates back to 2014, but courtesy of an OE employee with a conscience (few & far between nowadays), I have a veritable galaxy of 2018 internal documents, proving that staff incentives and bonuses are integral to the survival of this corrupt comany!
Watch this space