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Hospitals warned over vagina swabs

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Midwives and other staff involved in delivering babies are being warned about leaving swabs inside the vaginas of women who have just given birth.
Swabs are commonly used after vaginal births, where there is bleeding. However, if left inside the vagina, they can cause infection. The severity of the infection will depend on how long the swab goes undetected for.
The new guidance has been produced by the National Patient Safety Agency and NHS organisations throughout Wales and England and detailed in the agency's Rapid Response Report. The report describes 99 incidents between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2009 of swabs being left in the vagina after birth and perineal suturing.

The guidance states all NHS organisations should have written procedures for swab counts at all births and to audit swab count practices in their maternity services. The report also calls for NHS organisations to ensure that education and training on the importance of counting swabs is provided for all midwifery, obstetric and support staff, that lead professionals are aware of their responsibility in documenting the completed swab count in the woman’s health records and that risk assessment of delivery and perineal suture packs used by midwives and obstetricians takes place.
Sara Johnson, head of maternity care at the NPSA, has commented; "This guidance is necessary as the effects of infection and the psychological harm associated with these incidents can be significant and last beyond the immediate postnatal period."
Commenting on the recommendations, Mervi Jokinen of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "These guidelines reaffirm the need for awareness and vigilance from midwives and other health professionals."
I am of the opinion that this report will be beneficial to both exiting midwives and medical staff aswell as newly qualified staff. Such a simple error can have devastating effects and I think it is right that this issue is highlighted before the number of reported cases increases.
If you have been affected by this issue, please contact our clinical negligence team at Stephensons on 01616 966 229.
By clinical negligence solicitor and Stephensons' Partner, Louise Griffiths