Hospital Admits Leaving Swab Inside Young Mum For A Month Following Childbirth

Lawyer Says Hospital Error Is On NHS List Of ‘Never Events’ That Are Unacceptable And Raises Concern That Important Lessons Are Not Being Learned 

13.04.2012

A new mum left in agony and struggling to walk after surgeons left a medical swab inside her body for more than a month has joined calls from specialist medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell for hospitals to put an end to ‘never events’ - basic preventable mistakes - through better staff training.

The ‘unacceptable’ error at Birmingham Women’s Hospital occurred when theatre staff forgot to remove a medical swab from Lyndsey Faulkner following the difficult forceps delivery of her first child, Mia, on 2nd May 2010. After finding the swab, a doctor said the mistake could have been fatal if it led to toxic shock syndrome or blood poisoning.

It is one of a number of errors on a special NHS list of ‘never events’ - problems which the NHS says are simply “unacceptable and eminently preventable”.

"Guy Forster, a medical negligence expert from Irwin Mitchell who successfully represented Lyndsey in her claim against the hospital trust, said: “All medical swabs should be counted in and out of a patient during a procedure and checked by two members of hospital staff as a failsafe.

“In this case, the swab was overlooked and left inside Lyndsey for more than a month. This constitutes a ‘never event’ according to the NHS’ own Patient Safety Guidelines which recognises that such events are  unacceptable and eminently preventable if the available measures have been implemented.”.

Nursery nurse, Lyndsey, 28, from Stirchley in Birmingham, only discovered the horrific mistake when she went to her local medical centre after the agonising pain became too much to bear.

Following a full admission of liability, Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust has now paid out a five-figure out-of-court settlement and Mr Forster says more must be done by hospitals to ensure that important lessons are learnt to stop such dangerous errors from occurring in the future.

The medical law and patient’s rights specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “Clearly there was a basic failure to care for Lyndsey properly during her treatment.  

“She has been left traumatised by what happened and the resulting infection she suffered means she is now at a greater risk of developing problems in the future, including a risk to her fertility.

“Never events should be just that, events which just don’t happen and it is imperative that Trusts across the West Midlands and the entire country invest in training to ensure every step is taken to protect the safety of patients and prevent injury where at all possible.”

Two days after surgery, following the difficult birth of her first child, Lyndsey Faulkner, 28, from Stirchley, Birmingham, was sent home from hospital despite still feeling unwell, weak and dizzy.

Initially the nursery nurse believed the agonising abdominal pains and dizziness she was suffering were a result of the birth but as the weeks went on, her condition deteriorated further.

Finally, unable to bear the pain in her abdomen any longer, on 3rd June she visited an emergency medical walk-in centre, where the medical swab was finally discovered.

Commenting on the ordeal, Lyndsey said: “The birth of my first child should have been so exciting but instead it turned into an absolute nightmare. I was so ill after Mia was born that I wasn’t really able to bond with her and the first important weeks of her life passed by in a blur.

“I am devastated that such a thing could happen. When staff at the medical centre explained what was wrong I was gobsmacked and to be told that I could very easily have died from septicaemia or gone into toxic shock was very hard to deal with. My baby might have been left without a mother because of this basic mistake which should never have been allowed to happen.”

In January 2011, the Department of Health extended its list of ‘never events’ to include 25 serious, preventable patient safety incidents that should never occur whilst in the care of the NHS.  In January 2012, the list of 25 never events was retained with minor amendments to some definitions.

The list in 2011 added 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 patient’s bodies, and operations being carried out on the wrong body part.

Guy Forster has also urged the DoH to keep the list under constant review in an effort to highlight even more avoidable errors as never events amidst concerns that some preventable injuries, such as bedsores suffered by hospital inpatients and injuries caused by administering substances to patients with known allergies were not included.

He added: “If the NHS is truly to learn from patient safety incidents it is important that this list remains a work in progress and that healthcare professionals continue to strive towards making sure the ‘Never Events’ live up to their name.”

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of negligent delivery, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.