A recent BBC investigation reported on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, has found that between 2009 to 2012, there have been 762 Never Events within England’s Hospitals. Never Events are defined as “serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if the available preventative measures have been implemented”. Examples of Never Events include incidents where wrong body parts have been operated on or where foreign objects have been left inside a patient following surgery.
Through Freedom of Information requests to NHS Trusts, the BBC found that the majority of mistakes fell largely into four categories as follows:
- 322 cases of foreign objects left inside patients during/following operations;
- 214 cases of surgery on the wrong body part;
- 73 cases of feeding or medication tubes being inserted into patients’ lungs; and
- 58 cases of wrong implants or prostheses being fitted.
The total reported Never Events in each NHS Trust makes damning reading. The reported Never Events varies between NHS Trusts with the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust reporting the largest amount of Never Events during the relevant period with 15.
The accuracy of the data obtained is uncertain as the reporting of a Never Event relies on the openness and complete recording of events by those involved.
Sanctions that may be applied following a Never Event. For example the hospital may have to reimburse the costs of a procedure to the NHS Trust, the Trust may be responsible for the patients long term care and compensation and may also have future funding withdrawn.
In comment to the BBC, NHS England admitted the figures were too high and said it had introduced new measures to ensure patient safety.
Only time will tell the effectiveness of the “new measures” and what exactly they are. However, if history is anything to go by, one can be sceptical as to the effect of the new measures. The statistics of Never Events during 2009 to 2010 reported by The National Patient Safety Agency, details 111 Never Events. In comparison to the statistics for 2009 to 2012, that represents a lower yearly average of Never Events for 2009 to 2010. At that time, the then Health Minister Simon Burns commented that unsafe care must not be tolerated and informed the BBC that a system of disincentives would be introduced. Those disincentives do not appear to have tackled the problem, and the problem of Never Events has increased.
If you have experienced a Never Event or are unhappy with any treatment provided or omitted, please feel free to contact a member of our experienced medical negligence team.
 National Patient Safety Agency, ‘Never Events – Framework: Update for 2010-11′, March 2010. Available at http://www.nrls.npsa.nhs.uk/resources/?entryid45=68518