Hundreds of NHS Patients Affected by Medical Negligence
Today is World Patient Safety Day, a global effort to raise awareness of the scale of medical negligence across the globe. It’s a timely initiative for the UK in particular, as new figures obtained by PA Media show that between April 2018 and July 2019, there were 621 so-called “Never Events” – medical blunders that should never have occurred – in NHS hospitals.
These included operating on and even amputating the wrong body parts and leaving surgical tools and other objects inside patients.
If you’ve been affected by a Never Event while being treated by the NHS, you could be entitled to medical negligence compensation and rehabilitation support.
NHS Never Events
The 621 Never Events which reportedly occurred in NHS hospitals between April 2018 and July 2019 is the equivalent of 9 a week. Among the Never Events that occurred were:
- 270 incidents relating to wrong site surgery
- 127 cases of “foreign objects” left inside patients following operations, including drill bits, specimen bags, needles and swabs, surgical gloves and chest drains
- 52 patients having the wrong teeth taken out
- 6 patients having the wrong type of blood transfused
- 6 women having ovaries mistakenly removed during hysterectomies
- 2 patients having a biopsy taken from their cervix rather than their colon
- 2 men being mistakenly circumcised
- 1 patient having the wrong toe amputated
- 1 patient having the wrong part of their colon removed
- 1 woman having a lump removed from the wrong breast
Other medical errors identified in the data were several patients undergoing procedures meant for other patients, including laser eye surgery, lumbar punctures and colonoscopies, feeding tubes being misplaced and put into patients’ airways and patients being given overdoses of drugs including insulin.
The figures also show that medical error rates are much higher in some parts of the country than others. Barts Health NHS Trust topped the list, with 17 never events taking place between April 2018 and July 2019. This was followed by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust (13), Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (12) and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (12).
Responding to the figures, Rachel Power of the Patients Association acknowledged that while the NHS is under “significant pressure”, Never Events “should not occur if the available preventative measures are implemented”.
“Wrong site (wrong part of the body) surgery incidents are preventable safety instances that can have devastating consequences for the patient and their family,” she commented. “People who suffer harm because of mistakes can suffer serious physical and psychological effects for the rest of their lives and that should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS.”
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, added that Never Events are “exceptionally traumatic” for patients and their families, and “devastating” for the surgeons and healthcare staff involved.
“It is vital that all theatre staff use, and are involved in, the World Health Organization pre- and post-operative checklist process, as these have been designed to help prevent serious incidents,” he said. “It is also important that the NHS continues to promote a culture of openness and transparency, both in terms of publishing surgeons’ outcomes and the number of Never Events that, sadly, occur.”
This, he said, will allow surgical teams to admit mistakes and learn from them, so similar errors hopefully don’t happen again.
Our Medical Negligence Solicitors have called for NHS Trusts to be ‘more open’ about Never Events.
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