An optometrist who failed to test and diagnose a retinal detachment in a patient which can lead to blindness did not show "reasonable care and skill" and must apologise, the Health and Disability Commission has ruled.

The Health and Disability Commission, in a decision released today, found the optometrist failed his patient by not carrying out further tests and dilating the pupil or providing follow-up advice, despite the patient telling him it felt like a hair was irritating her right eye.

The optometrist used a light to examine the woman's eye when she visited him for a routine eye examination and identified a horizontal solid floater. He prescribed her with a new pair of glasses before sending her on her way.

The 55-year-old's eye was still irritating her so she sought a second opinion six days later and was diagnosed with a retinal detachment. She was referred to public hospital where she underwent urgent surgery two days later.


Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Meenal Duggal concluded the optometrist should have recognised the signs and provided follow-up advice to the woman in case she experienced further deterioration.

"By failing to do so, the optometrist failed to provide services to the women with reasonable care and skill."

Duggal ordered the optometrist to provide a written apology to the woman and for the Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians Board of New Zealand to consider reviewing the optometrist's competence if he returned to practise.

She also recommended the clinic where he worked to use the report findings as a reminder to other opticians about the importance of using dilated pupil assessments when presented with floaters or flushers to rule out the risk of retinal deterioration, tears or holes.

According to the Ministry of Health, eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma or a detached retina are serious and may eventually lead to blindness.