A “Never Event” is an error during treatment in hospital that is regarded as unacceptable and one that should just not arise in modern medicine.
Every hospital is responsible for reporting any “Never Events” that occur under their care, and there is much controversy as to whether all hospitals are living up to this obligation. Derriford Hospital clearly are, with the revelation that this year alone one patient had a wrong-sided prosthesis fitted and another was left with a swab inside them following surgery.
Perhaps the most striking error reported this year is one that happened back in 2010. Surgery had been carried out to the wrong part of the patient’s body (no other details are known), but the error was only picked up in 2015.
The NHS Trust responsible for Derriford Hospital has responded to criticism following the announcement by pointing out that it’s hospital treats nearly half a million patients per year, most of whom receive unproblematic treatment. It is proud that the hospital can be open about mistakes and that these are used as learning tools to avoid them happening again. It cannot be ignored that NHS hospitals do treat very high numbers of patients, and that statistically you are far more likely to have good results from your treatment than bad ones. However, “Never Events” were given that label for a reason, and it does beg the question whether such errors can ever be justified?