A medical swab was left inside a patient after she gave birth at Bath’s Royal United Hospital. The error was discovered during a post-natal check-up, 10 days after the delivery.

Swabs are used to soak up blood and other fluids during childbirth. They should be counted before and after use to ensure a swab is not accidentally retained inside the patient. But sometimes a maternity unit will not complete these checks and a woman is discharged from hospital with a foreign object left inside her body. This is called a “never event”, meaning it is a patient safety incident which should never happen.

Swindon’s Great Western Hospital (GWH), which runs the maternity unit at the RUH, said it was the second time a swab had been left in a GWH patient in the past year. The previous incident was a breast cancer patient who had a swab left in her armpit after surgery.

Peter Walsh, the chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), said the majority of “retained instruments or retained swabs” happen during “planned surgery”. He added: “I have to say that even in a planned environment, occasionally these things are still happening. They’re happening more than they should do.”

Retained surgical instruments

Retained surgical instruments and swabs can be avoided, just as long as patient safety rules are followed. Therefore when such an incident does occur, serious questions must be raised about the level of medical care provided to a patient.

In most cases, the standard of care will be considered both unacceptable and negligent. If this causes a patient to suffer physical injury, there will be grounds for a compensation claim.

To find out more about claiming compensation for a retained swab or surgical instrument, contact us at Glynns Solicitors today.

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