An analysis by the Press Association has found that more than 1,000 NHS patients in England in the past four years have suffered from serious medical mistakes that should never happen, reports BBC News. There were 290 never events in 2012-13; 338 in 2013-14; 306 in 2014-15 and 254 between April 2015 and the end of December 2015.

These so called ‘never events’ are described as serious medical incidents that should never happen if an appropriate standard of care is given to the patient and the relevant protocols and preventative measures have been implemented. Such mistakes have the potential to cause serious harm or even death.

Examples of never events include:

  • operations being carried out on the wrong parts of bodies
  • objects such as scalpels, swabs or wires being left inside patients
  • the wrong types of drugs (or dosages) being given to patients
  • the wrong type of blood being given to patients in a blood transfusion
  • feeding tubes being put into the lungs instead of the stomachs of patients.

In 2015, NHS England published a new set of national standards designed to support doctors, nurses and hospitals to try to prevent these mistakes. When a never event occurs, a hospital is required to conduct its own investigation, often called a Serious Untoward Incident Report or a Root Cause Analysis Investigation, to see if lessons can be learned to prevent a recurrence.

Commenting on this analysis, Lucie Prothero, senior associate at Penningtons Manches who deals with negligence claims relating to never events, said: “Unfortunately we continue to see these basic and avoidable errors occurring. Recent examples include patients who have had swabs retained inside them following caesarean section, wires being left in patients following surgery, the wrong part of the body being operated on, incorrect implants/products being used in surgery, and the wrong doses of heparin being given to a patient causing them to bleed to death.

“In recent years we have seen a greater transparency in hospital investigations and more openness about the occurrence of never events. Consequently, such cases are often resolved in a swift and proportionate manner. At Penningtons Manches we have experience of dealing with claims arising out of never events and can provide specialist advice and support to patients who have experienced these.”