NHS Hospital Never Events Up Despite Reduction in Planned Surgery

25 November 2020

Medical Negligence Lawyers have today raised concerns about the volume of Never Events which have taken place in hospitals across England and Wales during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a ‘significant spike’ across a Trust in Cornwall.

According to the latest figures published by the NHS, 145 serious incidents occurred between April and September 2020, including cases where medical equipment was left in the body after a procedure, transfusions of incompatible blood components of organs, and surgery that was administered to the wrong site.

In one case, a patient became trapped between a mattress and the bedrails.

Never Events are described within the report as ‘serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents’ that should not occur if healthcare providers have ‘implemented existing national guidance or safety recommendations’.

While the official designated list of what is classed as such an event was reviewed and republished in February 2018 making a like for like comparison against previous years difficult, the latest figures are ‘deeply concerning’.

One Trust based in Cornwall has recorded eight incidents since April, having had none in the previous 13 months. In one case a Royal Cornwall Hospital patient who underwent a procedure for a heart condition had a large piece of wire left in them.

Following the provisional publication of the latest figures Jodie Cook, one of our Medical Negligence Lawyers said, “These figures are deeply concerning. As outlined in the report from the NHS, a Never Event is serious, largely preventable, and indicative of a wider systemic problem.”

While the report also suggests that the actual number of Never Events was lower during the lockdown period, during which the NHS was responding to the Covid-19 pandemic – with 435 cases reported between April 1st 2019, and 29th February 2020 - it also implies that the reduction in instances was as a result of ‘major shifts’ in service provision away from planned and elective surgery.

Most of the Trusts named reported just one or two Never Events, yet others reported far higher numbers including Barts Health NHS Trust which reported five incidents, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust which reported four, and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust which reported six.

Jodie Cook added, “While we welcome the fact that the reporting of incidents has been maintained during the Covid crisis, and that there has been a drop in the number of cases of Never Events, the reality remains that 145 very serious failings in care were recorded.

“The impact of such negligence can be far reaching, and in many cases, patients suffer significant injury and face further medical procedures in order to rectify what has gone wrong.

“As normal planned procedures start to get back underway, many patients will be looking to the NHS for reassurance that lessons have been learnt from the cases that have been identified, and that numbers will not start to creep back up.”

 The full report can be found here.

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