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  • Writer's pictureUniversa Law

Shocking rise in NHS ‘never event’ as foreign bodies left in patients after surgery increases

Clinical and medical negligence is one of Universa Law’s areas of expertise, and we see plenty of surprising and unfortunate incidents through our client work. However, even we were startled by recent shocking news regarding the rise of foreign objects left in UK patients following operations. When a surgical item is involuntarily left in the body after surgery, it has the potential to cause great harm to the body and mental health of the patient.




A so called ‘never event’ happens when a surgical item is left in patient’s body by mistake. This could happen after a surgery or any procedure, and When a surgical item is involuntarily left in the body after surgery, it has the potential to cause great harm to the body and mental health of the patient.


In what the NHS calls ‘never events’,Statistics show that items such as swabs, blades, drill parts and even forceps have been left in patients 291 times in England in 2021-22.

Data released by the NHS confirm that these objects were accidentally left in patients following surgical and medical care in 2021. This is a record (of the wrong kind), with the lowest number over the last 20 years in 2003/04, when 138 episodes were recorded by clinicians.


Not surprisingly, the UK was already ranked among the worst Western nations for failing to remove such objects after surgery.


Paul Cairaschi suspects that this unfortunately could just be the tip of the iceberg; “This newly released data from the NHS only reveals those cases that they are aware of and have recorded. Quite possibly many people are walking around unaware that they have objects left in their bodies that can cause pain and infection, bowel obstructions, visceral perforations, and more if not removed.


“Undergoing surgery is very worrying for any patient but in cases of retained foreign objects, they often lead to significant harm to the patient. Sadly, sometimes such errors are not discovered for weeks, months or even years after the event, and often irreversible serious damage is done by then.”


Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association, says: “Never events are called that because they are serious incidents that are entirely preventable because the hospital or clinic has systems in place to prevent them from happening.


“The serious physical and psychological effects they cause can stay with a patient for the rest of their life, and that should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS. While we fully appreciate the crisis facing the NHS, never events simply should not occur if preventive measures are implemented.”


At Universa Law, we agree with the Patients Association and would welcome any steps by the NHS to reduce the incidence of retained objects. Furthermore, we are dedicated to defending those that have fallen victim to medical negligence and guiding clients through the compensation claim process with sensitivity and support to help them get life back on track. For expert advice on claiming compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced please get in touch. We provide free, confidential, initial consultations for all.




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