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NHS England confirms never events should never happen, but sadly they still do

We all accept that medical professionals are only human and can innocently make mistakes during the course of their employment. However, there are certain types of serious ‘mistakes’ that NHS England believes are wholly and entirely avoidable and therefore, should never happen. These are called ‘never events’.

Unfortunately, despite numerous policies and safeguards, never events do happen and can often cause serious patient harm and in some circumstances, even death. The NHS accepts that if a never event has occurred, the preventive measures and policies have not been correctly followed.

Colchester Hospital NHS Trust is currently at the centre of a police probe with allegations of data manipulation involving cancer patients and the Trust reportedly had the highest number of serious patient breaches in England last year with 420 ‘serious incidents’.

Derriford Hospital in Devon recently hit the headlines with news of three ‘never event’ incidents including ‘wrong sided prosthesis’ (which could refer to a joint such as the knees or shoulders) and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital Trust was subject to recent media exposure with news of a patient having had the wrong kidney treated for kidney stones.

The extensive never events list for 2015/16 can be found on the NHS England website. However, the most common types include:

• surgery being performed on the wrong part of the body or a patient receiving the wrong procedure

• instances when the wrong implant or prostatitis is implanted into a patient for example, the wrong hip joint in a hip replacement procedure

• when an item is left in the body such as a swab or instrument after surgery

NHS Trusts are required to monitor the occurrence of never events and publically report them on an annual basis. The highest rates over the last 12 months have reportedly taken place in the following Trusts:

• Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust with 9
• King’s College Hospital NHS Trust with 8
• Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust with 7
• University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust with 7
• Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust with 6
• Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn NHS Trust with 6
• Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust with 6
• Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust with 6

NHS England reported that in 2012/2013 there were 338 incidents falling into its definition of a never event.

Its most recent report indicates that there have been 308 never events between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015. Admittedly, this does show a slight decrease in the number of incidents. However, out of the 308 incidents reported last year, 126 were ‘wrong site surgeries’ and 102 related to a ‘retained foreign object following a procedure’. These statistics are still alarmingly high and reflect that more needs to be done to tackle, and ideally prevent, the never event problem.

While not all never events cause harm or injury, affected patients can be caused significant harm as a result and would potentially be entitled to claim compensation from the Trust responsible.

If you have suffered an injury as a result of a never event you should seek legal advice as you may have a medical negligence claim.

Linder Myers Solicitors has one of the largest and most experienced team of specialist clinical and medical negligence lawyers in England and Wales. Our team of specialists are readily available to listen to, and discuss, incidents of negligence including incidents of never events. We recently secured a significant settlement for a client who has been left permanently disabled as a result of such an incident click here to read more.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured due to negligence by a medical professional, including hospital staff, GPs or pharmacists, contact a member of our team on 0800 085 3295.

Alternatively, please email a summary of your potential claim and contact details to

Find out more about our Medical Negligence department Download our step by step guide to pursuing a medical negligence claim guide


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