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Lawyers Call For Urgent Action To Tackle ‘Unacceptable’ Never Event Figures

Freedom Of Information Investigation Reveals Extent Of Preventable Errors Across NHS


By Helen MacGregor

Leading medical law experts have today said better staff training and increased accountability was ‘imperative’ in a bid to prevent ‘never events’ - basic preventable mistakes that should never happen.

The call comes from law firm Irwin Mitchell after a BBC investigation revealed that more than 750 patients suffered unnecessary pain and suffering in the past four years as a result of incidents that should never have occurred whilst in the care of the NHS.

The findings reported following a freedom of information request for the data compiled by NHS England listed 25 serious, preventable incidents that should never happen if national safety recommendations are followed by medical staff.

But leading medical law experts say that despite the department admitting that the number of ‘Never Event’s’ being reported across the country was too high and claiming that new patient safety measures have been introduced there is a ‘distinct lack of clarity’ as to what those measures are.

Lisa Jordan, head of medical law and patients’ rights at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office said: “Never events should be just that, events which just do not happen, and it is imperative that trusts across the entire country urgently invest in training to ensure every step is taken to protect the safety of patients and prevent injury where at all possible.

“Currently there is no incentive for staff to report instances of never events because they have to reimburse the NHS with whatever the cost of the mistake is. This raises huge concerns as to whether lessons are ever being learnt from these unacceptable errors or if they are just being brushed under the carpet.

“It’s one thing for NHS England to say it will being in new measures to put an end to never events but until it is explained what these measures will be patients are left wondering how far they are protected.

“Sadly the medical law team at Irwin Mitchell have seen a number of repeat incidents of retained instruments, surgery on the wrong body part and cases of wrong implants or prosthesis being fitted. This is despite these having been classed as ‘never events’ by the NHS some years ago.

“Staff must be better trained to use the correct equipment and follow strict measures to make sure there is no chance these mistakes can ever be made and if they are, the Trust responsible needs to be held to account so lessons can be learnt to protect patient safety in future.”

The BBC reported that the Freedom of Information request revealed 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 over the last four years.

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