In Brief

Testicle removal blunder among 1,100 NHS 'never events'

'Disgraceful' catalogue of errors includes surgeons removing one patient's fallopian tubes by mistake

More than 1,000 NHS patients in England have suffered from medical mistakes so serious they never should have happened in the last four years, according to new analysis.

The blunders, described by NHS as "never events", include operations on the wrong patient and the wrong limb, a woman having her fallopian tubes removed instead of her appendix and "foreign objects" being left inside patients.

In one case, reports the Daily Telegraph, a man had a testicle removed instead of just the cyst on it, while one woman had a kidney removed instead of an ovary. Another patient had a biopsy taken from their liver instead of their pancreas.

The analysis, carried out by the Press Association, saw a fairly steady trend of medical mistakes as catalogued by NHS England.

The research showed there were:

•      254 "never events" from April 2015 to the end of December 2015

•      306 from April 2014 to March 2015

•      338 from April 2013 to March 2014

•      And 290 from April 2012 to March 2013.

"It is a disgrace that such supposed 'never' incidents are still so prevalent," said Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association.

She added: "With all the systems and procedures that are in place within the NHS, how are such basic, avoidable mistakes still happening? There is clearly a lack of learning in the NHS.

"These patients have been very badly let down by utter carelessness. It is especially unforgivable to operate on the wrong organ and many such mistakes can never be rectified."

In response to the analysis, an NHS England spokeswoman said: "One 'never event' is too many and we mustn't underestimate the effect on the patients concerned.

"However there are 4.6 million hospital admissions that lead to surgical care each year and, despite stringent measures put in place, on rare occasions these incidents do occur."

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, takes 'never events' so seriously that he "famously keeps a whiteboard updated with the latest disasters on a wall in his ministerial office", says The Guardian.

"I want to normalise openness and transparency," Hunt told the newspaper in a recent interview, stressing the need for healthcare staff to learn from previous mistakes.

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