More than 750 “never events” in the NHS

13 May 2013

A recent BBC investigation has revealed that the total number of serious medical accidents – so called "never events" because they were so obviously negligent and clearly should not happen under any circumstances – has exceeded more than 750 over the past four years.

Surgical errors such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving instruments inside patients, are categorised as by the Department of Health as "never events".

The department has categorised 25 incidents that should never happen if national safety recommendations are followed by medical staff. The BBC discovered through Freedom of Information requests to NHS trusts that the majority of mistakes fell into four categories.

There were 322 cases of foreign objects left inside patients during operations; 214 cases of surgery on the wrong body part; 73 cases of tubes, which are used for feeding patients or for medication, being inserted into patients' lungs; and 58 cases of wrong implants or prostheses being fitted.

NHS England admitted the figures were too high and said it had introduced new measures to ensure patient safety.

Tom Hartigan, Associate solicitor at Trethowans who deals with clinical negligence cases said "These figures are very high, and may in fact only be the tip of the iceberg as they only include reported cases. It is highly likely that many more serious incidents are occurring that are not reported. The type of errors we are talking about should not occur in any hospital under any circumstances. It is no wonder that clinical negligence lawyers are busy when investigations such as this report such high levels of negligent treatment occurring across the UK".