Major hospital blunders including 40 patients given surgery on wrong limb, revealed by official statistics

Major hospital blunders including 40 patients given surgery on wrong limb, revealed by official statistics

Almost 150 NHS patients have been harmed by incidents that should never happen, according to new figures - including the wrong patient receiving heart surgery, patients given overdoses and a woman who had her fallopian tube removed instead of her appendix.

Official statistics for a six month period show that the major blunders include 37 cases of patients who underwent surgery on the wrong part of the body. In one case, the wrong patient was given a heart procedure.

One woman had the wrong fallopian tube removed during an ectopic pregnancy, probably rendering her infertile, and another had a fallopian tube removed instead of her appendix. The wrong patient was given an invasive colonoscopy to check their bowel, while in four cases operations were carried out on the wrong teeth, and in other cases injections were given to the wrong eye.

In 69 cases, surgical instruments, needles swabs, specimen retrieval bags were left inside the body. The figures disclose for the first time the number of incidents in each NHS hospital, and the types of blunders - some of which have either killed or seriously harmed patients. In one incident, a drill guide block was left inside the patient’s body. In another case, the patient died as a result of failure to monitor their oxygen levels, while one woman died from heavy bleeding following a planned Caesarean section. 

Another had the wrong type of gas given, resulting in the patient’s death or severe harm, and one patient underwent surgery intended for someone else “due to incorrect results filed in notes”. In total 21 patients were given the wrong implant or prosthesis. Seven patients were given the wrong dose of chemotherapy, resulting in harm, and five died or suffered severe harm after feeding tubes were inserted incorrectly by NHS staff. In more than five cases, patients were given overdoses of drugs, with a weekly dose given in a single day. Until now, only national totals were published.

The 148 incidents in six months suggests figures are “broadly comparable” to previous years, NHS England said, with 325 events in the previous 12 months. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation trust recorded the highest number of incidents - four in six months, with two patients “retaining foreign objects” one suffering wrong site surgery and one being given the wrong type of prosthesis or implant during surgery.

Nine more trusts recorded three incidents each during the period. They were The Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust, West Middlesex University NHS trust, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, Barts Health NHS trust, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS trust, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation trust and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation trust. 

Dr Mike Durkin, National Director of Patient Safety at NHS England, said: “Awareness in the NHS of these issues has never been greater and the quality of our surgical procedures has never been better. It follows that the risk of these things happening has never been smaller. “Every single never event puts patients at risk of harm which is avoidable. People who suffer severe harm because of mistakes can suffer serious physical and psychological effects for the rest of their lives, and that should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS.” 

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are determined to see the NHS become a world leader in patient safety - with a safety ethos and level of transparency that matches the airline industry. “The publication of this data is a real step forward towards making this happen.”


By Laura Donnelly


The Telegraph, 12th December 2013

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