Never Events and the undisputable breach of duty

August 11, 2016

The removal of the wrong kidney. Surgical instruments left inside the patient. A knee replacement to the wrong leg. This list sounds almost too unlikely to be true, yet these mistakes are by no means uncommon.

These incidents are, amongst others, commonly termed the so-called “never events”, which are defined by the NHS as “serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if the available preventative measures have been implemented”.

NHS England publishes a list annually, which defines recognised incidents of “never events” and is readily available from an internet-based search.

Primary care trusts are required to monitor the occurrence of these types of events and to report them on an annual basis. Some health trusts appear to have an alarmingly high incidence of these types of cases. For example, Derriford Hospital in Plymouth was noted to have reported eight such events within a year in 2013. A hospital spokesmen recently commented on the report of a “wrong-sided prosthesis” (which could refer to a replacement joint such as a shoulder, hip or knee), stating that “our staff are human and very occasionally mistakes happen and things do not go as planned”. Further details were not made available due to patient confidentiality, but an investigation by the Care Quality Commission did ensue.

Whilst a specified incident may be defined as a “never event” and may well have the potential to cause, or has caused serious patient harm or even death, it does not actually have to be the case that the incident itself did have such consequences for it to be categorised as a “never event”.

At Metcalfes, our specialist team of medical negligence lawyers have considerable experience of dealing with this type of case and recently settled a claim for a client who was discharged from hospital with a swab having been left within their wound following surgery.

If you believe that you or a member of your family has suffered as a result of medical negligence, please contact us on 0117 239 8012, or email us by using the online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

References and further reading:

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Never Events and the undisputable breach of duty

Gillian Clark

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