Revealed: the 750 hospital mistakes that should never have happened - including 7in forceps left inside woman for three months after surgery

Investigation shows 322 cases of "foreign objects" left inside patients' bodies, 214 of surgery on the wrong body part and 58 where patients were fitted with the wrong implant

Hundreds of hospital patients have suffered basic, preventable mistakes that should "never" happen in the NHS during the last four years including having surgical instruments left inside them and operations being carried out on the wrong body part, figures suggest.

In the last four years more than 750 patients at hospitals in England suffered "never events" - which are serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents, according to figures obtained by Freedom of Information requests.

The data, collected by BBC Radio 4's World At One, found that there were 322 cases of "foreign objects" such as surgical instruments or swabs inside patients' bodies, 214 had surgery on the wrong body part, 73 patients had feeding tubes inserted into their lungs, and 58 patients were fitted with the wrong implant, among other incidents.

The news comes as a mother-of-four told how she was left with seven-inch forceps inside her for three months following an operation.

Donna Bowett, a former nurse, went to Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire in February 2009 to undergo keyhole surgery to remove her gallbladder.

For the months that followed the surgery she suffered "excruciating" pain, she said.

Doctors could not explain her pain and sent her for an MRI scan - but the magnetic field from the scan caused the metal inside her body to move.

The scan was stopped when Ms Bowett started screaming with pain. Afterwards she said it felt like the instrument was trying to "pull through her skin".

The blunder was eventually picked up on an x-ray.

"I couldn't believe the pain of the MRI scan," said Ms Bowett, from Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

"Doctors asked if I had any metal on me or in my body as the scanner uses magnets, but because I was completely unaware I said no. In reality the magnets were moving the forceps inside me and trying to pull them through my skin.

"They were unable to finish the scan because I was in so much pain and I was sent for an x-ray instead. I remember the nurse saying, 'don't worry Donna, the days of them leaving instruments inside patients are long gone'. It had never even crossed my mind.

"When they found out it was forceps inside me I was told there was a risk the forceps could have damaged my bowel which is life threatening and that I might not pull through the operation. I just could not believe what was happening to me."

The 42-year-old, who still suffers pain as a result of the error, was forced to quit her role as a nurse and take on an admin role.

Ms Bowett added: "I am devastated that such a thing could happen. There is no excuse for it and I hope improvements are made and staff are trained to ensure nothing like this can happen to anyone else. I'm grateful I am now able to fund the therapy, medication and treatment I need but I still have questions as to why it happened in the first place."

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, paid out a six-figure sum to pay for Ms Bowett's ongoing care and rehabilitation.

Lindsay Tomlinson, from the law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represented Ms Bowett, said: "This constitutes a 'never event' according to the NHS's own patient safety guidelines which recognises that such occurrences are unacceptable and completely preventable if the appropriate procedures have been implemented.

"Never events should be just that, events which just do not happen, and it is imperative that trusts across the entire country invest in training to ensure every step is taken to protect the safety of patients and prevent injury where at all possible."

Dr Mike Durkin, director of patient safety for NHS England, told the BBC: "Every single never event is one too many".

He added that NHS England had started collating the data to help educate staff on better practice.

"We need to understand what it is, in some systems and in some hospitals, that the team working hasn't produced an effective outcome and a mistake, and a 'never event' has occurred," he said.

"This is not just the concern of one operating theatre in one hospital. It should be the concern of the leadership of that organisation, of the trust, so that they lead that trust and support both the staff in the operating theatres to work effectively, but also recognise their responsibility for leading safety across the whole of the trust."


Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower