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NHS blunders that 'should never happen'

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The Telegraph has recently reported that in 2011/12 there were 161 incidents of foreign objects left inside patients, including swabs, needles, screws, instruments and wires.

These incidents are described by the NHS as ‘never events’ which are mistakes that should not happen under any circumstances, yet hundreds of patients are being harmed in this way. ‘Never events’ include misidentification of a patient, incorrect use of insulin for diabetes, transfusing a patient with the wrong blood type and putting a feeding tube down the nose into the lungs instead of the stomach.

It had been found that the majority of the ‘never events’ happened during or after surgery. The latest figures released by the NHS reveal there were 70 incidents of surgery conducted on the wrong part of the body, 41 cases of the wrong implant being used and 23 incidents where nasal or oral feeding tubes were found to be in the incorrect place or had become dislodged.

Mr Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has said: “The NHS treats a million people every 36 hours, and we know that the vast majority of these patients have excellent care. But the NHS needs to do more to really tackle these events. The NHS Commissioning Board is now setting up a task force to eradicate these never events from NHS surgery.”

The Government has however stated that it is not possible to compare these figures to previous data because the number of incidents defined as ‘never events’ has increased from 8 to 25 over the past year.

By Sarah Fairclough