NHS Wales Publishes Details Of Never Events

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The Law Of... human error in our healthcare system

Details of so called 'Never Events' that have taken place in hospitals across Wales have been revealed, with some of the shocking incidents including a silicone object being left inside a patient, an exploratory procedure being performed on the wrong person, and an incorrect tooth being removed.

NHS Wales Publishes Details Of Never Events

Responding to the report, Daxa Patel, Solicitor on the specialist medical negligence team at Simpson Millar, explains the impact Never Events can have on patients.

Avoidable Events

Never Events are defined by the NHS as serious incidents that are wholly preventable. In most cases there are guidelines and safety recommendations already in place to stop the Never Event from taking place.

NHS Never Events can be the result of human error, however they can also result from incorrect or faulty equipment causing patients serious harm or distress.

Not all Never Events necessarily result in continued suffering of patients and an incident can be described as a Never Event even if it did not cause an individual serious harm.

Some examples of NHS Never Events are:

  • Wrong site surgery: This relates to surgery being performed on the wrong part of a patient's body, for example a right arm undergoing surgery when the patient is really suffering problems with their left arm
  • Retained instrument post-operation: This describes surgical instruments or swabs being unintentionally retained by a patient, for example a surgical blade mistakenly left inside a patient after surgery
  • Wrong route administration of chemotherapy: This Never Event occurs when chemotherapy is correctly prescribed to a patient, but is administered incorrectly

These are just some common forms of NHS Never Events, however the NHS have published a full list of incidents that have occurred over the last year.

Never Events In Wales

Due to the publication of Never Events that have taken place in Welsh hospitals, the topic is once again in the news, with some of the most surprising and shocking events revealed by report including:

  • A silicone object being left inside a patient after surgery
  • A patient falling from a window that was not properly secured
  • A pleural biopsy being performed on the wrong lung
  • An operation on a healthy spinal disc, instead of the disc requiring treatment
  • An incorrect tooth being removed

The figures highlight that there were 60 Never Events across Wales' seven health boards from April 2012 to present day.

Responding to the Never Events, Daxa Patel comments:

"By definition Never Events should never take place. While it is important to appreciate that human error can happen we also need to consider the seriousness of this human error in our healthcare system."

"Never Events can have a serious impact on patients and their families, as it is not only the physical effects of these incidents but the psychological effects of losing trust in a health service that we have always been taught acts in our best interest."

"It should be noted that the majority of patients receive outstanding care from the NHS and while completely unavoidable incidents can be forgiven – due to their unavoidable nature – Never Events are harder to accept, due to the fact that they would be avoided if correct guidelines and procedures were followed by staff."

Compensating Never Events

Patients that are victims of a Never Event may be entitled to compensation, which should go some way to mitigate the loss caused by the avoidable incident.

Explaining compensation for NHS Never Events Daxa Patel said:

"I have dealt with a number of compensation claims for NHS Never Events and while those affected, and their families, appreciate the admission of liability that comes from a settlement it rarely repairs all of the pain and suffering caused by a Never Event."

"If you are a victim of an NHS Never Event it can be beneficial to seek compensation to gain a feeling of closure on the incident and I would encourage those affected by a Never Event to seek legal advice on how to challenge the preventable incident."


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