The occurrence of never events in the NHS
09 March, 2016
The NHS defines never events as ‘serious incidents that are wholly preventable’ and they include incidents such as:
- ‘Wrong site surgery’ (for example, if the wrong knee is operated upon)
- ‘Instruments retained post-operation’ (such as a surgical instrument being left inside the body)
- ‘Wrong route administration of chemotherapy’
To combat these events, the NHS commission a Surgical Never Events taskforce, to see why these incidents of patient safety were so persistent. Their aim was to produce a report with recommendations of how to minimise these incidents. This report was published in February 2014.
Aiming to be more transparent, the NHS are also regularly publishing data on the occurrence of never events in the UK. The latest figures are from January 2016, and can be viewed here. Between 1-31 January there were 22 ‘never events’. This included 5 incidents where the wrong tooth was removed, plus an incident where a surgical swab was left in the body post-operation. This high occurrence, at a rate of almost one a day, was also seen in December 2015. In this month, there were 31 serious incidents, which is exactly one per day. This included an incision to the wrong testis, ovaries removed when they should have been conserved, and two incidents where the wrong patient had the procedure. These are scary statistics, and it would appear that despite steps by NHS bosses to lessen these events, they are still very frequent.
When you go to hospital you put your trust in their hands. This includes a trust that your life will not be dramatically altered, that you sight, fertility and body parts will be maintained, and you do not expect such serious events to occur. The effects of these, physically and mentally, will be hard to reverse, and many will be left dealing with the consequences of these medical mistakes for the rest of their lives. The Patients Association recently spoke to BBC news on the occurrence of never events, they said that the figures are a ‘disgrace’, and Katherine Murphy, chief executive, said that ‘There is clearly a lack of learning in the NHS … It is especially unforgivable to operate on the wrong organ, and many such events can never be rectified.’
Our head of Marketing, Andy Cullwick says that ‘The perception of compensation in the UK is an interesting one. On one hand it seems perfectly acceptable to make a cash claim for a delayed flight or train, and suing your bank for mis-sold PPI is the norm, but when it comes to suing the NHS for Medical Negligence opinions are much more divided.
On one hand people argue that it drains already precious resources from an overstretched health service, however on the other side of the argument there are victims of negligence. Since 2010 we have seen a staggering 50% rise in the number of medical negligence claims made, suggesting that standards are slipping.
Often the only way to redress this balance is through legal action. Not only does this give the victim the right to redress the situation and fight for the compensation that they need to recover or make the changes they need to live a normal life. It also means that hopefully the same mistakes aren’t made again.
Never events are probably some of the more horrific incidents of medical negligence and, whilst mercifully low in number compared to the number of procedures every year, one never event is one too many.’
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