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Eight medical mistakes which should never have happened


Doctors in Bristol have made eight ‘potentially deadly’ errors in the last year, according to an investigation by the Bristol Post.

Data released by the NHS shows that eight preventable mistakes – known as ‘never events’ – were recorded between November 2014 and October 2015.

NHS England defines ‘never events’ as wholly preventable errors which could cause serious harm or death to the patient. Examples of never events include:

  • surgery performed on the wrong area of the body
  • ‘wrong route’ chemotherapy
  • leaving instruments such as swabs inside the patient after a procedure

North Bristol NHS Trust, responsible for Southmead Hospital, recorded three such events, with the rest attributed to University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the BRI, the Children’s Hospital and St Michael’s.

Open and honest

Richard Harries, of Barcan+Kirby’s medical negligence team, commented:

“Whilst the majority of NHS patients receive excellent care, mistakes are happening every day in hospitals all over the country. But whilst some of the issues outlined in this report are shocking, what is more shocking is that the same mistakes are being made time and time again. This needs to be looked at closely.

Certainly I hope that no one will interpret this report as meaning that the total number of serious mistakes in Bristol hospitals was limited to these figures.

Of course, in an organisation the size of the NHS, some medical accidents are inevitable. Doctors and medical professionals are humans – and busy ones at that.

What’s more important is the way in which the health trust deals with these mistakes. Not only do they need to be open and honest about why these failings have happened, they must also put in place robust systems to protect patients and prevent such mistakes in the future.

In our experience, many patients just want an honest explanation about what has happened. However, all too often they have to take legal action against hospitals and doctors in order to get the answers they need.

The Department of Health intends to make changes to the legal system later this year which may result in the many other mistakes being swept under the carpet. This is something which many people, including the politicians introducing these changes, have failed to appreciate.”

Richard’s views about the need for openness were echoed by Dr Sean O’Kelly, Medical Director at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, who said: “While it is disappointing when never events and serious incidents occur, it is essential that we have an open culture, report incidents and learn from them.”

Further information

If you’re concerned about the medical treatment you’ve received from the NHS, contact our clinical negligence solicitors in Bristol on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

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