Medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors have labelled new figures revealing the number of preventable errors in UK hospitals each year as ‘wholly unacceptable’.
Reports today have highlighted how almost 1,200 ‘never events’ – serious incidents and errors that the NHS accepts are wholly preventable and should never happen – have occurred in hospitals in England over the past four years.
Mistakes have included operations taking place on the wrong patient and the wrong limbs, objects being left inside the body, a kidney removed instead of an ovary and falls through windows that were not properly secured.
The catalogue of basic errors, which can seriously harm a patient, is kept by NHS England and shows a fairly steady trend.
Between April 2012 and March 2013, there were 290 never events, in 2013/14 there were 338, in 2014/15 there were 306 and from April 2015 to December, which is the latest month with figures yet recorded, there have been 254 – although that will be adjusted if more reports for later months come in.
Solicitor Renu Daly, a specialist in handling cases of medical negligence, said: “Our team at Hudgell Solicitors represents many clients who have been the victims of such errors, and we believe it is wholly unacceptable that no signs of improvement had been made in terms of patient safety over the past four years.
“We have long campaigned as part of our work in representing patients across the UK for more openness and transparency into such errors being made within the NHS, and will continue to challenge examples of sub-standard health care and demand answers and investigation.
“It is unacceptable that patients can find themselves being given wrong medication, having surgical equipment left in them following operations, or having wrong implants and procedures, simply because healthcare staff and providers are not following clear, simple guidelines.
“Hopefully, the Duty of Candour, and the continued push for greater transparency, will place a focus on errors such as these and lead to lessons being learned, greater accountancy within the NHS, and improved standards across the board.
“There simply has to be improvements as figures like this are completely unacceptable.”
On its own website, NHS England admits that each Never Event type has the potential to cause serious patient harm or death’, with Never Event incidents including errors such as wrong site surgery, instruments being retained in patients post operation, and wrong route administration of chemotherapy.
Since April last year, errors have included more than 80 cases of ‘wrong site surgery’, including a ‘kidney removed inadvertently’, injections into the wrong eyes of patients, and surgery on the wrong body parts such as elbows and ankles.
One woman was due to have her appendix removed, but doctors mistakenly removed her fallopian tube, whilst one form of surgery was ‘undertaken on the wrong patient’.
There have also been 25 incidents where the ‘wrong implant or prosthesis’ have been used, including patients having wrong hip and knee surgery.
Over the same period, there were more than 50 incidents of ‘retained foreign objects’ or swabs being left behind in patients following procedures, including vaginal swabs, surgical swabs and needles, part of a chisel, guide wires, microsurgical clamps and ribbon gauze.