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NHS Admits 'Never Events' Figure Is Too High

The BBC has this week revealed details of its investigations into the number of ‘never events’ occurring in English and Welsh hospitals. ‘Never events’ are incidents that are so serious, the NHS considers they should never happen; including such incidents as operations being carried out on the wrong body part, misplaced feeding tubes, incorrect prosthesis or implants being used, and the retention of foreign objects following surgery.

Between 2009 and 2012 a total of 762 such ‘never events’ occurred in England’s hospitals. The BBC reports that:

There were 322 cases of foreign objects left inside patients during operations; 214 cases of surgery on the wrong body part; 73 cases of tubes, which are used for feeding patients or for medication, being inserted into patients' lungs; and 58 cases of wrong implants or prostheses being fitted

In Wales a total of 24 ’never events’ occurred in the same period, including 10 cases of foreign objects left inside patients following surgery and 8 operations on the wrong part of the body.

Dr Mike Durkin, Director of Patient Safety for NHS England, said the number of ‘never events’ was too high and that ‘never events’ would be avoided if NHS staff worked together and followed the correct procedures. He stated that “One is too many in any week, in any day, in any hospital".

Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader stated that guidance had already been issued to explain how risks and harm could be prevented and that it should be followed by all NHS staff.

Locally, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has been under scrutiny for several years following multiple reports of ‘never events’ occurring in relation to eye surgery carried out at the two hospitals. The Trust has said it is committed to reducing surgical complications and that "Never events should become just that - events that never happen."