NHS Admin Errors Put Patients at Risk of Receiving Incorrect Procedures

NHS Admin Errors
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

A new report published by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has found that there were 472 serious healthcare incidents reported in England between 2019 and 2020. Our medical negligence specialist, Nimish Patel, commented that ‘The NHS is stretched, particularly at the moment in the middle of the pandemic but staff shortages and system errors are not unique to these times. The NHS have been regularly reporting on types of mistakes which should never have happened such as wrong tooth removal, wrong site surgery or retained objects which could be easily avoided.’ One of these issues led to a woman receiving an invasive gynaecological procedure, instead of the fertility treatment that she was supposed to have. Worryingly, nearly half of the serious incidents reported between April 2019 and the end of March 2020 were procedures performed on the wrong patient or on the wrong part of the body.

The HSIB found that this specific incident took place in an outpatient clinic where patients go for consultations, tests and medical procedures. They also noted that visits to these types of clinics have more than doubled in the past decade. The 39-yer old woman visited a gynaecology outpatient department for her first fertility appointment in July of 2019. The confusion occurred when she was checked into the reception desk at the same time as another patient, who had arrived for a colposcopy appointment. A colposcopy is often recommended if a smear test has detected abnormal cells in the cervix. It is a procedure in which the cervix can be viewed, and it helps to determine whether treatment will be needed in order to remove the cells. When the nurse had called out the second patient’s name several times with no response, the first patient thought that the nurse had in fact called out her name and followed her into the clinic room. After a number of further errors, the woman was given the incorrect procedure and then left the clinic. She was then phoned when she was on the way home and told what had happened. Despite staff apologising and the patient going through with her appointment, she eventually decided that she did not want to pursue her fertility treatment. The deputy medical director at HSIB, Dr Sean Weaver, commented that; ‘Any invasive procedure carried out incorrectly has the potential to lead to serious physical and psychological harm and erode trust in the NHS.’ He added that the number of invasive procedures that are being carried out in outpatient settings was rising, and that there are currently no strong barriers in place to stop ‘misidentification’ incidents occurring.

With the NHS under immense pressure due the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been increasing concerns about waiting times, delayed surgeries, and the level of safety checks that are able to be carried out. This report highlights the importance of healthcare standards being upheld, even in a crisis. Medical negligence or clinical negligence can include a wide number of incidents. If you or a family member have had a bad experience with the NHS that resulted in:

  • Your illness not being diagnosed or treated, causing you to be ill for longer, or
  • It took longer for you to heal from your illness or injury due to a mistake or a misdiagnosis, or
  • You received treatment that caused further avoidable illness or injury, or
  • Unnecessarily long waiting times that caused your symptoms to worsen

If you have suffered from any of these, then you may be able to make a claim against the NHS for medical negligence.

Read more about clinical negligence and suing the NHS for negligence on our dedicated pages.

Get in touch with one of our specialists to find out where you stand, and get the legal support that you need with a clinical negligence claim.

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