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What is a “Never Event”

  • Published: Wednesday May 25, 2022
  • Category: Medical negligence
  • Tags: Never-Event,

As reported by Sky News, there were more than 400 “never events” in England between April 2021 and March 2022.

At some point in most people’s lives, they will require hospital treatment of some kind, ranging from minor procedures to more serious and complex operations.  Naturally, this causes a lot of anxiety and worry given the risks associated with surgery.  Whilst it is understood some risks of surgery, known as recognised risks, must be accepted and consented to by the patient prior to agreeing to the surgery, sometimes incidents occur which are entirely avoidable and should never happen.

A “Never Event” is defined by the NHS as an entirely preventable and serious incident that has the potential to cause or has caused harm to a patient.

Common examples include: –

  1. “Wrong site surgery” – for example the surgeon has operated on the patient’s wrong hand, arm, eye or even organ, although this may exclude interventions where the wrong site is selected because of unexpected abnormalities in the patient’s anatomy. This should be documented in the patient’s notes.
  2. “Wrong implant / prosthesis” – for example the implant/prosthesis placed in the patient is other than that specified in the surgical plan.
  3. “Foreign Objects” retained in patient after an operation – ‘Foreign object’ includes any items that should be subject to a formal checking process at the commencement of the operation and before the operation is completed.  Examples include retained swabs, needles, or other surgical instruments.  There are exceptions to this including when the item is known to be missing and the “documented” intention of the surgical staff is to remove it at a later date, or if further action to remove the item prior to completion of the operation would cause more harm to the patient.

When a Never Event occurs, the NHS Trust concerned should inform the patient involved and carry out its own independent investigation.  The purpose of this investigation is to identify the cause and to take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of such incidents happening again.

Despite this positive action, Never Events are continuing to happen.  If the safety protocols and guidelines were followed on each and every occasion, then Never Events would not occur however the most common reason for the cause of such incidents is human error.

If you or a family member have been the victim of a Never Event, please contact us at enquiries@graystons.co.uk.  Graystons have the legal expertise to offer a free assessment and help you in bringing a claim in a timely and efficient manner, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.