Every day the NHS deals with hundreds of thousands of patients, most of which receive the treatment they need without any issue. Unfortunately, the unthinkable can happen and does happen in some cases and a totally preventable incident can cause serious harm or even death to a patient.
The impact of the Never Events can have permanent and serious life changing consequences not only affecting the patient but also for their families.
These preventable incidents are known as 'Never Events', due to the fact that they should never happen. In cases where they do happen patients could be eligible for compensation that could help them recover from the medical negligence that caused the Never Event to occur. While compensation will not restore the loss it will go some way to providing some relief to the victim and their family.
What Are Never Events?
Never Events are incidents that occur that should have been prevented by the extensive guidance and safety recommendations in place for healthcare providers.
In their simplest form, Never Events are wholly absolutely preventable and should never take place in the first place
While each and every Never Event has the potential to cause patients serious harm or death, a preventable incident does not have to result in harm or death to be categorised as a Never Event.
Most of the NHS data released regarding Never Events highlights that 20-40 Never Events occur every month, with these ranging in seriousness.
Never Events are managed by the NHS Patient Safety department, which have identified the following incidents as core Never Events:
- Wrong site surgery: This is the most common type of Never Event, and related to surgical intervention performed on the wrong part of a patient's body, for example the wrong limb
- Retained instrument post-operation: This describes one or more instruments or swabs being unintentionally retained by a patient after their surgery – put bluntly, this describes an instrument being left inside a patient's body
- Wrong route administration of chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is correctly prescribed to a patient, but is administered incorrectly
These are the main three Never Events that take place, however there are a countless number of other occurrences within the NHS that are completely avoidable.
If you, or a loved one, has been recently treated by the NHS and feel that a wholly avoidable incident occurred it is crucial that you seek legal advice, as you could have experienced a Never Event.
Why Do Never Events Occur?
While the proportion of NHS patients that are subject to Never Events is incredibly low, these completely avoidable accidents do happen. They do not happen because of the lack of framework and proper guidelines – in fact, the only reason that the term Never Events exists is because the avoidable incidents are covered in official guidelines – Never Events also do not occur because of a lack of training or expertise within the NHS.
Quite simply, Never Events mainly occur because of simple human error.
Never Events are almost always accidents and in most instances Never Events are linked directly to a simple mistake by a medical professional, unfortunately this simple mistake can have lasting consequence altering the lives of the patient and their family forever
Due to the often accidental nature of Never Events, compensation claims against Never Events should not be seen as a personal attack on the NHS as whole, or even the healthcare professional that caused the Never Event. Claiming against a Never Event is a process that helps patients to gain rightful compensation that negates any loss of earnings or damage – whether physical or emotional – caused by a Never Event.
Making A Never Event Claim
As in most medical negligence cases, the first step to making a claim against a Never Event is to report the situation to the NHS complaints board, or to a specific professional body if possible.
Once a complaint has been made the NHS will be aware that a case may be filed against them due to the damage done by a Never Event. If they accept liability then a settlement may be offered, which should include an amount of reparation that is comparable to the event of the Never Event.
If the NHS does not accept blame, or if the settlement offer is deemed unacceptable by the affected patient, then the case may need to be escalated.
When gathering evidence for Never Event cases most incidents are straightforward, this is due to the strict nature of NHS guidelines and the obvious way in which Never Events can be identified.
The steps for making a compensation claim against a Never Event are as follows:
- Establish that a Never Event has occurred
- Make a complaint to the NHS Complaints Board within 6 months of the incident, or within 6 months of gaining knowledge of the incident, complaints must be lodged no more than 12 months after the incident, or after knowledge of the incident
- The NHS Complaints Board will investigate the complaint and may offer an apology and commit to improving standards. A monetary offer is unlikely at this stage, however the NHS could offers a token ex gratia sum (meaning a sum of money that they are not actually obliged to offer)
- If unsatisfied with the response from the NHS, seek legal advice on taking the case forward
- Solicitor will begin to gather evidence and will put forward a civil claim against the NHS
- If no acceptable settlement offer has been made the case will be put to a court or complaint tribunal and a Judge will rule on the facts of the case and will award a ruling based on their best judgment
It is important to note that a civil claim needs to be made within 3 years of the incident taking place, or within 3 years of gaining knowledge of the incident. In cases of a minor then the time limit on a civil claim is 3 years after their 18th Birthday.
The amount that can be claimed as a result of a Never Event is dependent on the type of event and the consequences of the Never Event. For tailored advice on your specific case, get in touch with one of our medical negligence team, who will be able to advise on the merits of your case.
Seeking Legal Advice
Due to the completely avoidable nature of NHS Never Events, it is crucial that legal advice is sought when they do occur.
Being on the receiving end of a Never Event can be frustrating and confusing, as patients can wonder why they have been subjected to an incident that should never have happened. Crucially, Never Events can cause a breakdown of trust between patient and medical practitioner and while compensation may not rebuild that trust, it can go some way to repairing some of the damage done by the avoidable episode.
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