‘Never Events’ – do they really exist?

  • Posted

Posted 08/05/2013

‘Never event’ is a term that has been used within our hospitals to describe events that should never happen. These include operating on the incorrect side of the body, leaving foreign objects inside a patient during surgery and inserting the incorrect prosthesis into a patient. In total the NHS has made a list of 25 never events. These events should never occur because they are basic and completely avoidable errors.The NHS has recently released figures suggesting 750 ‘never events’ have occurred throughout England over the past four years.Ben Ward, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments:

“I would suggest that the actual number of ‘never events’ that has occurred is far greater. Over the past two years alone I have run seven such cases. One of the difficulties with obtaining accurate figures relating to ‘never events’ is that it is the hospitals themselves who have to report them and carry out an internal investigation. In at least 50% of the ‘never event’ claims that I have pursued on behalf of patients, the supposed ‘never event’ was neither reported, nor investigated! There is no incentive whatsoever for a hospital to report a ‘never event’. If they do, they face the possibility of having to reimburse the cost of the procedure to the NHS, as well paying for any long-term consequences their error has caused the patient to suffer.The other bugbear of many clinicians is that by categorising these 25 never events it somehow decreases the importance of tackling other sub-standard, and often negligent, errors that occur within our hospitals. This is not an issue that can simply be tackled through greater levels of training for frontline staff. It is often the system that fails our NHS patients and I would suggest that never events and other errors within our hospitals occur due to failings at the very top levels”.


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