In February this year, a Press Association investigation found there had been nearly 1,200 ‘never events’ in the NHS over the last four years.

A ‘never event’ is a serious patient safety incident that can be avoided, as long as the correct guidance and recommendations are implemented.  

There are currently 14 never events on the list, including wrong-site surgery and retained foreign objects.

The Patients Associated described the news as a ‘disgrace’. But in his blog Learned Friend, Nigel Poole QC has questioned whether it would be “more reassuring” if there were more never events.

He draws upon the example of a wrong-site surgery. Currently, wrong-site surgery is a ‘never event’ if it occurs because the surgeon made a mistake, but not if it occurs due to incorrect laboratory results or referral letters.

Mr Poole criticises the “tightly circumscribed” nature of the never event, as it does not matter much to the patient who made the mistake – the outcome is still the same.

He also raises concern that “so few errors are regarded as being wholly preventable”. There are just 14 incidents on the list, meaning that only around 300 mistakes a year are deemed avoidable.

Mr Poole suggests this is a very “narrow view of which errors should never occur”.

He writes: “If systemic barriers were more effective then there would be more errors classified as never events. There would be more mistakes regarded as inexcusable.”

“If systems are improved then the number of errors can be reduced and fewer patients will suffer avoidable harm.”

Medical compensation claim

If you have been harmed by poor medical care and would like to know more about suing the NHS, please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors.


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