Eardrum perforated

Medical history

A 34-year-old man attended his GP to have his right ear syringed. On examination the GP suspected that the patient had an abscess and prescribed penicillin, asking him to return a week later to see the nurse and have his ear syringed. When the patient returned, his ear was syringed by a locum practice nurse. (The patient later admitted that during the procedure he had felt excruciating pain and dizziness.)

Two days later the patient said that his ear had been incompletely syringed and the same nurse repeated the procedure. The patient then returned to the surgery complaining of a sore ear and the nurse referred him to the GP. On examination the patient was found to have a perforated eardrum and antibiotics were prescribed. Fortunately he made a good recovery but sued, alleging negligence.

Expert opinion

The MDU sought expert opinion from a GP and a nurse and was advised that the GP had fallen below the acceptable standard of care in delegating the procedure to the nurse without having first established her competence to carry out the procedure. The nurse, who had not performed ear syringing for some 20 years, was also deemed liable for not declining to peform the procedure. The MDU settled the claim.

This page was correct at publication on 01/01/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.