They are called ‘Never Events’ in the medical profession, given the name because they are serious incidents and errors that the NHS accepts are ‘wholly preventable’ and therefore, should never happen.
However, a report today has highlighted how almost 1,200 such ‘unacceptable serious events’ have occurred in hospitals in England over the past four years.
Mistakes have included operations taking place on the wrong patient and the wrong limb, objects being left inside the body, a kidney removed instead of an ovary and falls through windows that were not properly secured.
The catalogue of basic errors which can seriously harm a patient is kept by NHS England and shows a fairly steady trend.
Between April 2012 and March 2013, there were 290 never events, in 2013/14 there were 338, in 2014/15 there were 306 and from April 2015 to December, which is the latest month with figures yet recorded, there have been 254 – although that will be adjusted if more reports for later months come in.
Medical Negligence Specialists
As specialists in medical negligence compensation claims, our team at Hudgell Solicitors represents many clients who have been the victims of such errors, and believe it is wholly inacceptable that no signs of improvement had been made in terms of patient safety over the past four years.
“The worrying thing here is that no improvement can be seen in these figures, with hundreds of entirely avoidable errors, of the kind which can cause serious harm or even death, continuing to be made in hospitals across the NHS each year,” said solicitor Renu Daly.
“We have long campaigned as part of our work in representing patients across the UK for more openness and transparency into the unacceptable amount of avoidable errors made within the NHS, and will continue to challenge examples of sub-standard health care and demand answers and investigation.
“It is wholly inacceptable that patients can find themselves being given wrong medication, having surgical equipment left in them following operations, or having wrong implants and procedures, simply because healthcare staff and providers are not following clear, simple guidelines.
“Hopefully, the Duty of Candour, and the continued push for transparency such as publishing these figures, will place a focus on these errors and lead to lessons being learned within the NHS, more accountability, and improved standards across the board.”
“There has to be improvements as figures like this are completely unacceptable.”
On its own website, NHS England admits that each Never Event type has the potential to cause serious patient harm or death’, with Never Event incidents including errors such as wrong site surgery, instruments being retained in patients post operation, and wrong route administration of chemotherapy.
Since April last year, errors have included more than 80 cases of ‘wrong site surgery’, including a ‘kidney removed inadvertently’, injections into the wrong eyes of patients, and surgery on the wrong body parts such as elbows and ankles.
One woman was due to have her appendix removed, but doctors mistakenly removed her fallopian tube, whilst one form of surgery was ‘undertaken on the wrong patient’.
There have also been 25 incidents where the ‘wrong implant or prosthesis’ have been used, including patients having wrong hip and knee surgery.
Over the same period, there were more than 50 incidents of ‘retained foreign objects’ or swabs being left behind in patients following procedures, including vaginal swabs, surgical swabs and needles, part of a chisel, guide wires, microsurgical clamps and ribbon gauze.
Such figures are made public by the NHS as part of a commitment to being ‘open and transparent about patient safety incident reporting’.