Vaginal swabs to drills – foreign objects left inside patients shared by NHS

NHS doctors have accidentally left surgical tools inside patients nearly 100 times just in the last year, according to official data.

The data revealed that there were 407 'Never Events' – instances of medical negligence that should have never happened – recorded between April 2021 and March 2022 in England. This number would be equivalent of nearly eight mishaps per week.

Of this, 98 cases were of a foreign object being left behind inside patients during a medical procedure. Here's a look at all the items left inside patients as well as other instances of medical negligence in the NHS.

What items were left inside patients in NHS?

According to NHS England data, items like drill bits, swabs, wires and scalpels were left patients after medical procedures.

Vaginal swabs were the most common item accidentally left behind in patients 32 times, while surgical swabs went undetected 21 times.

Parts of a drill bit was left inside patients three separate times over the year while other objects like a pair of wire cutters, part of a scalpel blade and the bolt from surgical forceps were also found.

Several instances of guide wires for processes like chest drains and femoral lines were also forgotten and left behind after the procedures.

What other 'Never Events' took place?

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Besides foreign objects left inside the patient, there were also other incidents of medical negligence recorded over the past year.

There were 47 total cases where a doctor gave the wrong implant or prothesis, of which 12 cases were wrong hip implants and 11 wrong knee implants.

Six patients had injections given to the wrong eye and seven people received wrong blood transfusions. There were 171 total cases of 'wrong site' surgery.

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Other incidents include 13 times when patients were connected to air instead of oxygen, 21 times when medication was administered by the wrong route and 11 cases of insulin overdose.

In one instance, a patient had ovaries removed when the plan was to conserve them while another patient had a procedure done to their breast, that they hadn't consented to.

What are NHS Never Events?

Never Events are defined by the NHS as "serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if healthcare providers have implemented existing national guidance or safety recommendations."

An NHS spokesperson said: "While these events are extremely rare, and NHS staff are working hard to provide safe care to patients, it is important that events are reported and learned from so that they can be prevented in the future."

Besides the recent figures recorded under Never Events, there are further 29 cases recorded under the "Serious Incidents" category, which are being investigated locally.

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