John Denham, a Health minister, said 252 claims had been lodged in the past four years over "foreign bodies" that had been left in wounds after operations.
In a written parliamentary answer to Gordon Prentice MP, Mr Denham said there had been 23 deaths since 1995 involving incidents when surgical detritus was accidentally left inside patients.
Mr Prentice, MP for Pendle, said it was vital that the NHS took urgent action to tackle the problem.
"Surgeons and other operating theatre staff are highly skilled and committed professionals who often work in pressured and stressful conditions," he said.
"Our lives are in their hands. But surely it must be possible to double- check that nothing has inadvertently been left behind before the wound is stitched up. The cost of negligence to the patient and the NHS is far too high."