New research has shown that British hospitals are among the worst in the developed world for leaving surgical instruments inside patients.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the UK has 5.5 cases per 100,000 people discharged from hospital – the sixth worst record among 16 industrialised nations surveyed.
The UK’s record of surgical errors involving never events is twice as bad as Slovenia and three times worse than Poland.
The NHS defines such cases as never events – they are things that should never happen to patients because a system of checks is supposed to be in place.
Never Events and the Risk to Patients’ Health
Never events include things like dressings, swabs and parts of hypodermic needles inside patients’ bodies. The NHS updates its ‘Never Events List’ every year and the latest list can be found here.
We have blogged in the past about the injuries that never events can cause and the latest findings show that, worryingly, patients in the UK are at a much higher risk of such injuries than patients in other developed countries.
A never event can sometimes lead to other health complications which, in some cases, can be extremely severe.
The NHS may lead the world in some areas of patient care but urgent action certainly needs to be taken to prevent patients in our country from such serious health risks.
More than 100 Never Events Last Year
The OECD report shows that there were 102 never events in England last year.
Simple checks such as counting instruments before and after surgery, together with effective communication between surgical teams, can help reduce the never event risk, according to the report.
As Patient Concern Co-Director Joyce Robins says, “It should be made a legal requirement that the checklist of instruments be read out loud and ticked off at the end of each surgical procedure.
“It should not be a matter of pot luck whether some instrument is left inside the patient.”
NHS England responded to the report by saying that “any mistake of this kind is one too many” and that they are working hard “to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.”
We appreciate that the NHS are working to improve patient safety overall but the latest OECD report shows an alarmingly high rate of basic surgical mistakes that should have been prevented by taking simple steps to check things properly before and after surgery.
Patients expect their health will improve after surgery, not that they’ll be at risk of a further deterioration in their health because of a basic surgical mistake. We urge the NHS to act swiftly to improve the situation so that, perhaps one day, the UK can finally say “never again” to never events.
Stephen Jones is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon have many years of experience in helping people who have suffered from the effects of surgical negligence.
Our expert Clinical and Medical Negligence Solicitors can provide immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support from anywhere in the UK. We also offer hospital visits if you cannot attend one of our offices.