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Medical Negligence

Over 600 NHS patients suffered serious medical mistakes

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, September 17, 2019

More than 600 people suffered incidents of medical negligence so serious they should never have happened between April 2018 and July 2019.

According to data obtained by PA Media, 629 NHS patients went through a so-called ‘never event’ – the kinds of accidents so serious they should never happen.

It comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) marks World Patient Safety Day today (17 September). The WHO has pointed out that 134 million “adverse events” take place annually as a result of unsafe care in hospitals in low and middle-income countries.

Meanwhile, 15% of hospital expenses go on treating patient safety failures in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member states, of which the UK is one.

Patients going through the wrong procedures

Among the incidents were doctors operating on the wrong body parts and leaving their equipment and tools – including gloves, specimen bags and needles – inside patients. Some 127 cases of foreign objects being left inside people took place.

One patient was found to have had the wrong toe amputated, while another had the wrong part of their colon surgically removed. Meanwhile, two men were circumcised when they shouldn’t have been.

A total of six women had their ovaries mistakenly removed during hysterectomies, causing them to start menopause. Another woman had a lump removed from the wrong breast and a further two had biopsies taken from their cervix rather than their colon. A total of 270 incidents of wrong site surgery were recorded.

Some patients also went through procedures intended for others, including laser eye surgery, colonoscopies and lumbar punctures. A further six patients were given the wrong blood type during transfusions and 52 people had the wrong teeth removed.

Other patients were given regular air rather than pure oxygen and others were given overdoses of drugs, including insulin. These could have been fatal mistakes.

London hospitals under fire

Barts Health NHS Trust in London saw the most never events, at 17 in the time period examined.

This was followed by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which saw 13 never events, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, at 12.

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was also responsible for 12 never events, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust saw 11.

Meanwhile, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust – both located in the capital – saw 10 never events each, as did Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

‘Preventable safety instances’

Chief executive of the Patients Association Rachel Power said: “Wrong site surgery incidents are preventable safety instances that can have devastating consequences for the patient and their family.

“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.”

She went on to say that each incident of medical negligence “puts patients at avoidable risk of harm”. She added that despite the NHS facing significant pressure, incidents such as these “should not occur if the available preventative measures are implemented”.

‘Never should mean never’

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “While these cases are very rare, never should mean never. Never events are exceptionally traumatic for patients and their families.

“They can also be devastating for the surgeons and healthcare staff involved. NHS staff are there to care for patients, so knowing you have caused harm is incredibly distressing.”

He added that it is vital that surgical staff use the WHO pre and post-operative checklist process, which have been designed to help prevent serious safety incidents.

If you have been affected by an incident of medical negligence, First4Lawyers can help. For more information on how our specialist solicitors can help you get justice, just give us a call for free and our advisors will be happy to talk you through your options.

You can also request a call back at the top of your screen or start your claim here. No one should have to go through an experience like this on their own.