Why we can never say ‘never’ with the NHS, even in 2012

Clinical Negligence solicitor Richard Kayser, from our London office, is alarmed at the mistakes highlighted by the recent NHS report concerning ‘never events’…

The unbelievable does happen.

Yesterday the NHS published its latest figures for ‘never events’. A never event is an event that the NHS class as something that should not occur – for example, foreign objects being left inside patients, or surgery on the wrong part of their body.

Unfortunately 326 of these events were reported last year. The most common ‘mishaps’ included:

–       161 patients retaining foreign objects post-operation

–       70 people having surgery on the wrong part of the body

–       41 incidents involving the wrong implant or prosthesis

–       23 incidents of misplaced nasogastric tubes.

And the Health Secretary has acknowledged that things still need to be improved. Mr Hunt said:

“The NHS needs to do more to really tackle these events.”

Whilst this – and the NHS openness about these data – is pleasing to note, such figures are still worrying. For the patient, these events can be life-changing and sometimes even lead to death.

In the 21st century, should patients really have to worry that their surgeon may leave a piece of surgical equipment in their body or remove the wrong part of the body?

I share the Health Secretary’s disquiet. Although it’s part of my job as a clinical negligence solicitor,  I continue to be deeply concerned by the number of cases I have to deal with on behalf of families put in these situations by the NHS. The sooner they put a stop to these events, the better.

Marcus Weatherby, Medical Negligence,
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