List Proves No Room For ‘Never Events’ In NHS

Lawyers welcome steps to secure patient safety


Patients’ rights experts representing victims of medical errors including a young mum who was left with a swab inside her following surgery have today called for a newly published ‘never event’ list to become key literature for all medical staff across the country.

The call comes from law firm Irwin Mitchell following the release of the extended list published by the Department of Health, which highlights 25 serious, preventable patient safety incidents that should never occur whilst in the care of the NHS.

Guy Forster from the firm also welcomed a new incentive to secure patient safety as a top priority, with hospitals facing financial penalties if such errors occur but voiced concerns that some injuries, such as bedsores and those caused by administering substances to patients with known allergies were not included.

The new list adds tragedies such as maladministration of insulin, falling from unrestricted windows and severe scalding to those already identified on the original list of eight published in April 2009, including medical instruments and swabs being left inside patients bodies, and operations being carried out on the wrong body part.

In December 2007 new mum Amy Callaghan, then 26, was left in agony and barely able to move as a result of a blunder following the birth of her first child, Tegan, in which a swab was left inside her following an emergency caesarean.  The internal damage caused by her injuries was so severe that she now faces a future of possible fertility problems.

Now Irwin Mitchell are urging medical professionals to take the time to consider the incidents highlighted on the official list to ensure that every step is taken to prevent further such horror stories emerging.

Guy Forster from the firm, who represented Ms Callaghan said: “Whilst we welcome these new steps to make patient safety a priority the fact remains that such a list has existed since 2009, and we are still being contacted time and time again by the victims of wholly avoidable errors which often have catastrophic consequences.

“Never events should be just that, events which never occur, and it is imperative that Trusts across the country invest time and resources to ensure every step is taken to protect the safety of patients and prevent injury where at all possible.

“If withholding payment to a Trust for providing care which breaches these standards improves quality of care overall, that is surely something that must be welcomed.”

Forster goes onto urge the DoH to keep the list under constant review in an effort to highlight even more avoidable errors as never events. He said: “If the wider NHS is to truly learn from patient safety incidents it is important that this list remains a work in progress, that healthcare professionals continue to identify new ‘Never Events’, and new ways to ensure that they do not occur.”