The Patients Association calls “never events” in the NHS “a disgrace”


NHS “never events” are hitting the headlines again with provisional figures showing 254 incidents since April 2015. Katherine Murphy – the chief executive of the Patients Association – has said that this shows the NHS is still failing to learn from mistakes and called their prevalence “a disgrace”. The Royal College of Surgeons has called the situation “unacceptable”.


The NHS says “one never event is too many”


Yet, over 1,100 patients have now suffered the consequences of such serious medical mistakes over the past four years. Of these, more than 400 experienced “wrong site surgery” – that is, the wrong part of their body was operated on – and over 420 were found to have foreign objects left inside their body following a procedure. Specific incidents cited in the report include:

  • Fallopian tubes taken out instead of appendix
  • Testicle removed instead of a cyst
  • Kidney removed instead of an ovary
  • Biopsy taken from the liver instead of pancreas
  • Wrong legs, eyes or knees being operated on
  • Foreign objects left inside patients after surgery (including swabs, needles, drill guides and scalpels)
  • Feeding tubes put into lungs instead of stomachs (potentially fatal)
  • Wrong type of blood given during blood transfusion
  • Wrong drugs administered
  • Wrong doses of medication given
  • Diabetics not given insulin
  • Patients given the wrong types of implant or joint replacement


Colchester Hospital – the highest number of “never events”


“For people who experience a “never event”, the consequences are often serious and life-changing” says medical negligence lawyer Alan Mendham. “Last year Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust recorded 9 such incidents – the worst figure in the country.”  See here for article.


Putting the figures into perspective


When you consider that over 4.6 million operations take place every year in the NHS it is, of course, still true that the vast majority of treatment is safe.

“What is particularly concerning, though” says Alan “is that the classification criteria has now been changed, with a number of instances being downgraded to “serious incidents” rather than “never events.”


Incidents that have been re-classified include:

  • Complications following a planned Caesarean Section (not considered to be wholly preventable)
  • Escape of a transferred prisoner
  • Failure to monitor and respond to oxygen saturation levels


The latter is now not a “never event” because protocols are not considered strong enough to prevent it from happening.


In addition, the provisional figures come at the same time as The Kings Fund’s reporting of its quarterly survey of 83 NHS Trust directors. More than half say that they think the quality of patient care in their area has deteriorated over the past year. One in five finance directors say that new spending limits on the number of Agency staff would affect their ability to roster safe numbers of doctors and nurses.


At Gadsby Wicks, we have achieved successful outcomes for families who have suffered through medical negligence, including those who have experienced serious harm following a “never event”. See here for a selection of our case studies. 


If you – or someone you love – have concerns about your treatment at Colchester or Mid-Essex Hospitals, our expert lawyers can help. Please call us in confidence on 0800 321 3112 or email us here to make an enquiry.

Posted 23rd February 2016 | Posted in News,Uncategorised