Level of “never events” at NHS Trusts prompt concerns from patient groups

5th September 2017

Level of “never events” at NHS Trusts prompt concerns from patient groups

Patient safety groups have expressed concern after a near record number of serious avoidable incidents were recorded by the NHS last year.

Surgery on the wrong part of the body, unnecessary procedures following cases of mistaken identity, foreign objects left behind after a procedure and patients falling out of windows were just a few of the so-called ‘never events’ recorded by the NHS last year.

There were 424 of these incidents in 2016/17 – a figure described as “disturbingly high” by campaign groups, who say the same mistakes are being made time and time again.

Among the litany of errors were 18 operations on the wrong knee and several cases where oral medicine was administered intravenously. Misplaced vaginal swabs were a common problem across the health service with 31 cases recorded, while 42 procedures on the wrong tooth took place. On four occasions, doctors operated on the wrong patient altogether.

As well as medical mishaps, three patients fell from improperly restricted windows, and in three cases a patient’s neck or chest became trapped in their bed rails.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), of which Gotelee is a member, warned that lessons were not being learned – and urged hospitals to own up to failings to prevent cases being dragged through the courts.

APIL President Brett Dixon said: “All too often, the same failures are repeated. Each never event ought to be treated as a red flag indicating a palpable threat to patient safety, yet more than twice a week someone has a foreign object left inside them, including broken drill bits, surgical needles, swabs, and bags used for the retrieval of specimens.”

Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, added: “Never events by definition are perfectly avoidable incidents which often cause serious harm or death. The number of them that are being reported remains disturbingly high.”

The NHS says the increasing number of incidents is the result of greater awareness and transparency from staff about the need to report errors.

A spokesman for NHS Improvement, which oversees hospitals, said: “Organisations are expected to investigate and learn from mistakes, and the fact that more and more NHS staff take the time to report incidents is good evidence that this learning is happening locally.”

How can Gotelee help?

The NHS is held in the highest regard in the UK – and rightly so. But when mistakes are made and the duty of care to which patients are entitled is not met, it’s important to hold the health service to account.

Making a claim could result in financial help to deal with the consequences of an error and could go some way to ensuring the same mistake isn’t repeated.

Gotelee has a wealth of experience in this area and can advise you whether or not you have the basis of a claim. If you do, we can support you through the process at any of our offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton.

To find out more, call us on 01473 298125.

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