October 30, 2017
Although the UK is exceptionally fortunate & highly regarded in many ways for high standards of medical treatment and care, the unfortunate reality is that clinical negligence cases are on the rise, including aptly named “Never Events”.
A “Never Event” is the type of mistake that should never happen to you when you are having medical treatment. Unfortunately this happens far too frequently despite numerous processes put in place by the NHS, often due to human error.
The NHS defines such occurrences as:-
“a serious incident which was wholly preventable and had the potential to cause a patient serious harm or death.”
It covers the most basic of errors including such things as (almost unbelievably in 2017) operating on the wrong patient or on the wrong area of a patient, leaving surgical instruments inside the patient after surgery or giving someone incorrect drugs or dosage of drugs.
Although we would all like to believe that such basic errors are exceptionally rare, statistics released by the NHS for the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, indicate that 424 incidents were reported as Never Events.
These reports included incidents of:-
- Wrong Site Surgery
- Retained instruments following surgical procedures
- Wrong implant/prosthesis
- Wrong route administration of medication / Overdoses of medication
- Entrapment in bedrails
- Scalding of patients
- Wrong blood transfusion
For the period of 1 April 2017 to 31 August 2017 released recently, the provisional figures for Never Events totals 179, with in a 5 month period, a total of 67 instances of Wrong Site Surgery and 55 instances of Retained Foreign Objects following surgical procedures.
Whilst publishing the data for such incidents is in itself an improvement (in order to highlight potential weaknesses in safety processes) it is little consolation for those affected by such an error.
Ironically, the result of such incidents is often the need for a further surgical procedure to correct the initial error or to remove the retained object and it is unsurprising that many people experience a psychological reaction and/or a complete loss of confidence in medical staff which can mean that further treatment is a traumatic experience.
Indeed, Andrew Miles, a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon and Director of Professional Affairs at the Royal College of Surgeons described such incidents as “devastating for patients and their surgeons, (even if no harm has been done)”.
The team here at Spencers have extensive experience of dealing with the effects of such incidents and have represented patients making claims against the NHS in a variety of cases including instances of excessive amounts of anaesthesia being administered during surgery, swabs and instruments being left in the patient following surgery sometimes not being identified as present for years, scalding of patients resulting in severe burns and treatment being administered to the wrong limb.
In our experience, one of the most fundamental things a client seeks to establish is why the error occurred and this can often be the most difficult thing to establish, even with the current “duty of candour” which requires treatment providers to be open and transparent with patients in respect of their care and treatment.
We, as a team, are committed to assisting clients in getting answers & providing support at what is often the most difficult and stressful time of their lives, with the aim of putting things right.
About the Author
Andrea Ribchester-Hodgson is a Solicitors within our Serious Injury Team.
Andrea, who joined the team in 2015, qualified as a Solicitor in 2001. With over 15 years of experience, Andrea specialises in helping people with Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence cases. Andrea deals with claims involving adults and children who have suffered serious and catastrophic injury including fatal injuries. Andrea’s clients also include individuals living with spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, complex pain and multiple orthopaedic injuries.