Surgical swabs and scalpel blades left inside patients as NHS ‘Never Events’ increase

Surgical swabs and scalpel blades left inside patients as NHS ‘Never Events’ increase

A never event is aserious incident or error that should not occur if proper safety procedures arefollowed. More than a decade has passed sincethe first list of eight Never Events was published in 2009 and in that time, theNHS has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of related events to the pointthat 407 events were reported between April 2021 and March 2022 (against afigure of 364 events between April 2020 and March 2021).

Among the 407 eventsreported in 2021/22, there were 98 cases of a foreign object being left insidea patient during surgery, ranging from surgical swabs to drill bits and scalpelblades. 

There were also 171cases where the surgeon had operated on the wrong body part - one woman had herovaries removed by mistake and six patients received injections to the wrong eye.

Other examples included performingwrong hip and knee implants, providing patients with air rather than oxygenduring the recovery process, and giving patients the wrong blood type during a bloodtransfusion.

A Department of Healthand Social Care spokesperson has responded by saying "Patient safety is atop priority for the Government and these unfortunate events - although veryrare - can have a serious physical and psychological impact on patients”.

Although Never Eventshave the potential to cause serious patient harm or death, they do not alwaysneed to have happened for an incident to be categorised as a Never Event. Hence, their purpose is to act as a red flagfor areas of improvement in clinical practice.

As a member of the Medical NegligenceDepartment here at Wolferstans, I was concerned to read that Never Events inthe NHS are continuing to increase despite the fact that numerous measures havebeen put in place over the last few years to prevent recurrence. The effect that these incidents canhave on individuals, as well as their families, can be devastating; both from ahealth and financial perspective.


Situations where I havehelped clients gain compensation after a Never Event include:


  • £11,000 for a client who was discharged following surgery with a non-absorbable pack left inside the wound cavity.


  • £7,500 for a client who, following the insertion of a chest drain, was found to have a guide wire left inside the pleural cavity.


  • £6,000 for a client who was injected with a bolus of air into the bloodstream (which entered the right ventricle of the heart) whilst undergoing a CT scan of the thorax and abdomen with contrast.


If you have suffered aninjury because of a Never Event, then please call our Medical Negligenceteam on 01752 292204 or e-mail for a free consultationregarding the possibility of pursuing a claim for compensation. 

    Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.

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