Number of reported “never events” is “disturbingly high”
The number of ‘never events’ being reported by the NHS is increasing. Patients falling out of windows and equipment being left inside wounds after surgery were some of a near record number of ‘never events’ recorded last year.
Life-threatening medical mistakes are ‘disturbingly high’ – with official data revealing that wrong site surgery took place 178 times in the 12 months before April 2017. Surgical swabs were mislaid inside patients after operations on 22 occasions, and in two cases broken-off drill bits were mislaid.
These were among a litany of 424 never events recorded in 2016-17, which included 18 operations on the wrong knee and some cases where oral medicine was administered intravenously. Misplaced vaginal swabs were a common problem across the English health service, with 31 cases recorded, while 42 procedures on the wrong tooth took place. On four occasions, doctors operated on the wrong patient. As well as medical mishaps, three patients fell from improperly restricted windows, and in three cases a patient’s neck or chest became trapped in their bed rails. Among the offenders in 2016-17 was St Bartholomew’s NHS Trust, responsible for 11 transgressions, whilst King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was responsible for seven. The latest figures show a steady increase in the number of wrong site surgeries, with 54 such incidents reported in 2012-13, rising to 135 in 2015-16.
NHS chiefs have suggested that the rising number is due, in part, to a greater awareness of never events amongst staff – which has resulted in increased reporting: ‘Organisations are expected to investigate and learn from mistakes, and the fact that more and more NHS staff take the time to report incidents is good evidence that this learning is happening locally.’
What can be done to reduce these medical errors that so often lead to litigation and expensive damages payments? Is their rising incidence really the result of ‘greater awareness’, as opposed to being a reflection of an NHS system under intense pressure? Do post your own thoughts and suggestions.