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Almost 300 'never events' occurred during surgery in the last year

  • 04.01.2023
  • EmmaArnold
  • Clinical-negligence
  • medical errors medical mistakes Never Event surgical negligence Medical Negilgence medical failings

An increasing number of NHS ‘never events’, where foreign objects were found in patients after having surgery, were reported last year according to new figures.

Wire cutters, scalpel blades and drill bits were all items reported in the 291 instances of surgical equipment being found inside a patient, sometimes years after their operation.

The data, sourced from NHS Digital and analysed by PA Media, found almost the 300 cases occurred in 2021-2022 which was the highest annual total recorded in over 20 years.

The individuals affected varied in age, from elderly patients to small babies, with swabs and gauzes used during surgery or a procedure recorded as the most common items found inside patients. However, the bolt from surgical forceps was also recorded in the data.

Deemed a ‘never event’, as leaving a foreign object inside a patient should never occur, there are strict procedures in hospitals to prevent such blunders, including checklists and the repeated counting of surgical tools.

Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “While we fully appreciate the crisis facing the NHS, never events simply should not occur if the preventive measures are implemented. The serious physical and psychological effects they cause can stay with a patient for the rest of their life, and that should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS.”

By way of comparison, two decades ago, there were 156 'never events' reported. The lowest number on record was in 2003-04, when 138 episodes were logged by clinicians.

Lesley Herbertson, Partner in Clinical Negligence at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

“The data recently released showing a massive increase in ‘never events’, such as the leaving of objects inside patients following surgery, is of great concern.  As there should be very specific systems in place to avoid this sort of thing happening, either they are not working or not being properly followed. Whilst the NHS has been under increasing strain over the last few years, there can be little excuse for such events, that should never happen, in fact being on the rise. Unfortunately, lack of proper adherence to procedures not only puts the patient at risk but can also mean additional surgery, to remove the object, which is something that no-one wants.”

Lesley Herbertson is a Partner in clinical negligence here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about amputation as a result of clinical negligence or indeed any other aspect of clinical negligence and wish to speak to Lesley or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Lesley directly.

If you have experienced a 'never event', undergone a medical procedure and have suffered harm as a result of negligence by a surgeon or another medical professional, you could be entitled to compensation. We have a team of specialist solicitors who can help you make a successful surgical negligence claim.

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