Medical incidents within the NHS which should never happen – known as “never events” by the Department of Health – have increased alarmingly across a twelve month period, resulting in an order to the NHS to compile a record of all such never events from this October. This will enable to the figures between different NHS Trusts to be compared in the future.
These new records are to be are to be made available by quarterly publication.
Never events are dangerous medical incidents and typically include leaving one or more of the medical instruments used during the course an operation inside the patient following completion of the procedure, operating on the wrong part or side of the body, incorrectly setting up feeding and breathing tubes causing a risk of the patient drowning and incorrectly administering drugs such as insulin, all of which have potentially devastating – even life threatening – consequences.
Figures just released show that the incidence of such never events has doubled over just a one year period, from 163 to 299 events, although the Department of Health claim this is inaccurate. They say that the figure of 163 events reported in 2011/12 refers only to never events reported at a central level – when in fact additional reports were made to other care trusts, meaning that the figure for that period was actually higher than the 163 events showing in the official figures released. Whilst this may mean that overall the number of never events occurring did not double across the period covered by the statistics, the fact that it increased dramatically is not open to dispute.
The figures further show a worrying increase in never events of 84% when figures for 2011/12 and 2012/13 are compared.
Research carried out by the BBC revealed that over the four year period from 2009 – 2012, a total of 762 NHS patients were the victims of never events. Within this figure, there were 73 incidents involving the incorrect placement of tubes for feeding or the application of medication, and the NHS failed to fit the correct implants/prostheses to 58 people. Surgery was carried out on the incorrect part of the patient in 214 cases, and a further 320 people were left with medical implements which had been used in the procedures carried out on them within their bodies following operations.
Peter Walsh, the chief executive of AvMA – Action on Medical Accidents, a UK charity campaigning for patient safety and justice – commented on the figures to say that never events should be entirely avoidable “simply by following standard procedures.”
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