A blind man was left furious after he claims a health boss said to him: “Look at me when I’m talking to you” during a patients’ meeting at a doctors’ surgery.
Peter Bennetts, 60, says he was at a patient forum meeting of the St George and Riverside GP practice in South Shields when the crass comment was made by practice manager Rosemary Long.
The dad-of-two is a patient at the practice, which is based in Flagg Court, South Shields, and run by IntraHealth.
Mr Bennetts, who is the North East regional chairman for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), says that just minutes after introducing himself and explaining that he was legally blind, Ms Long was asked to answer some concerns he had raised.
He admits that due to his condition, he doesn’t always turn towards people or make eye contact as they speak.
But he was left astounded when Ms Long said to him “Look at me while I’m talking to you.”
I was distressed. As far as I’m concerned it was disgusting that a medical professional would say something like that, especially when I had just told everyone that I’m blind two minutes earlier.Peter Bennetts
He said: “I was distressed. As far as I’m concerned it was disgusting that a medical professional would say something like that, especially when I had just told everyone that I’m blind two minutes earlier.”
IntraHealth confirmed it is investigating the claims.
Mr Bennetts has been registered blind since 1991. He began to lose his eyesight at the age of 14 due to a condition called macular degeneration, a painless condition which causes people to lose their central vision.
He was so distressed by the comments that he issued a formal complaint and had since decided to move to a different doctor’s surgery.
Mr Bennetts says that he was one of many patients who had raised concerns around patient safety and low staff morale at the practice and that the meeting he was at was to discuss these concerns.
He said: “The way I usually explain my sight is that if I’m standing at a bus stop, I can’t tell if it’s a bus, lorry or fire engine coming down the road towards me, and I can’t really make out people’s faces, I can just see shapes, so for her to say that to me was very disrespectful.
“The reason we were there was because there were concerns with the surgery and I was there on behalf of the patients and trying to be supportive.
“It’s just disgusting to be treated in that way.”
When contacted by the Gazette, Ms Long said she did not wish to comment.
A spokesman for IntraHealth said: “IntraHealth would like to confirm that we are dealing with the complaint received from the patient Mr Peter Bennetts in line with IntraHealth’s complaints procedure.”