Hospital blunder over vein surgery

Several patients were affected by errors  (PA: posed by models)

Several patients were affected by errors (PA: posed by models)

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Several patients have suffered very serious errors while in hospital in central Lancashire over the past 10 months, it has been revealed.

The ‘never events’ – mistakes so serious they should never happen – include surgeons operating on the wrong varicose vein, incorrectly installing a stent into an artery, and getting the angle of screw wrong during surgery for a fractured hip.

The errors happened at either Royal Preston Hospital or Chorley and South Ribble hospital, but Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs them, was unable to say exactly where they happened.

Royal College of Surgeons president Clare Marx said: “This data shows an unacceptable level of preventable mistakes are still happening in the NHS. While these cases are very rare, never should mean never.”

The trust had four ‘never’ events from April to December 2015, the most up-to-date figures from NHS England showed. However, the data is provisional and the trust said there have only been three confirmed events.

In 2014/15 there were four, and in 2013/13 there were two.

The trust said carries out around 90,000 operations every year and described patient safety as its ‘top priority’.

Chief executive Karen Partington said: “We are committed to creating an open and honest culture and encourage staff to speak up and report errors so we can continuously improve.

“The national classification of a never event has changed and so more incidents are now classified in this way.

“Some incidents fulfil the criteria for a never event, however there is no harm to the patient. We investigate all never events and ensure any necessary action and improvements are implemented.”

The trust said the patient affected by the surgery on the wrong varicose vein chose to have a second operation, which was successful.

The patient affected by the incorrect placement on the stent had it refitted properly, while the hip surgery on the third patient was successful despite the wrong angling of the screw.

No corrective surgery was needed, the trust added.

Clare Marx added: “Learning from mistakes and using best practice and guidance to avoid such errors should be the priority of every medical and surgical team across the country.

“The NHS must continue to learn from these errors so we can become the safest healthcare system in the world.”

Nationally, more than 1,100 patients have been victims of never events in the past four years.

More than 400 people have suffered due to “wrong site surgery”, while more than 420 have also had ‘foreign objects’ left inside them after operations - including gauzes, swabs, drill guides, scalpel blades and needles.

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

Other patients have suffered when feeding tubes which are meant to be fed into their stomach have been put into their lung instead. This can prove fatal.

Others have been given the wrong type of implant or joint replacement, some patients have been mixed up with others, and some patients have been given the wrong type of blood during a transfusion.

Some patients have also been given far too high doses of drugs, including oral methotrexate, which is used for the treatment of severe arthritis, psoriasis and leukaemia.

In other cases, prisoners have escaped and some patients have fallen from poorly secured windows.