Health official “regrets” telling blind man to look at her while she’s talking to him

Registered blind man Peter Bennetts.
Registered blind man Peter Bennetts.

A health official “regrets” telling a blind man to look at her when she was talking to him.

Peter Bennetts, 60, says he was so upset by the comment that he has left Riverside Medical Practice, in Flagg Court, South Shields.

Riverside Medical Practice is within Flagg Court Primary Care Centre

Riverside Medical Practice is within Flagg Court Primary Care Centre

The dad-of-two, who is a trustee of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), 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.

He 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.”

IntraHealth, which runs the practice, today issued a comment saying that Ms Long regretted her choice of words and any offence that was caused to Mr Bennetts.

A spokesman said: “Having spoken to a number of patients and others present at the meeting, we recognise that Ms Long actually asked Mr Peter Bennetts, ‘Please can you look at me when I am speaking to you.’

“Ms Long has since reflected on the meeting and regrets her choice of words and any offence they may have caused Mr Bennetts. No offence was intended as she was simply trying to address his concerns. Ms Long is a long-standing member of staff with 28 years’ service, supporting the team through a number of changes and continues to do so.

“We are sorry that Mr Bennetts has chosen to leave the practice as the service needs the support of its patients and we particularly value those patients who are willing to give up their time and contribute their feedback to the development of the service. We hope that other patients will continue to support the practices and its team as it continues to develop and improve services.”

Mr Bennetts said: “I would suggest that their staff need vision awareness training provided by Gateshead and South Tyneside Sight Service.

“Perhaps any member of staff that could come out with something like this should be referred to appropriate training.

“I would also like to say that IntraHealth promised to come back to me within seven working days with a written response to my formal complaint, which would be today, but as of yet they have not.

“I am still waiting for their written response and in that response, I would ask for a full apology.”

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.