£17m NHS Bill After 100s Of Patients Have Wrong Body Part Operated On

'This should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS.'
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The NHS has spent £17 million in six years dealing with cases where patients have had the wrong part of their body operated on, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Between 2012/13 and 2017/18, 202 patients claimed compensation from the health service following “wrong site surgery” – described by the NHS as an invasive procedure on the wrong body part.

The term also includes cases where an operation was carried out on the wrong person altogether.

Of the £16.98m spent by the NHS, £11.3m was paid out to patients in damages. The rest was spent on defence costs and covering claimant costs.

In 2015/16 alone, the NHS forked out £5.3m in damages to victims. In 2017/18 there were 49 claims for compensation – the highest number in the six year period.

Costs for "wrong site surgery".
Costs for "wrong site surgery".
NHS Resolution

But the number of patients who fall victim to wrong site surgery each year are much higher than those who seek compensation. Between April 2017 and January 2018 alone, 175 of these cases were recorded by the health service.

The toddler’s father said he had been admitted to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for treatment for an undescended testicle, but that surgeons had “castrated him” with their mistake.

Meanwhile, in 2017/18 NHS doctors mistakenly removed ovaries from four women, and also extracted the wrong rib from a patient.

In another case, a patient was given laser surgery on the wrong eye.

Overall NHS incidents of ‘wrong site surgery’*

2015/16: 179

2016/17: 189

2017/18: 175

*Incidents recorded in a different format pre-2015/16.

Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association charity, said wrong site surgery incidents were preventable – but could have “devastating consequences” for patients and their families.

“People who suffer harm because of mistakes can suffer serious physical and psychological effects for the rest of their lives, and that should never happen to anyone who seeks treatment from the NHS,” she said.

“Each incident of this nature puts patients at avoidable risk of harm, and it is worrying to see the number of claims from these incidents increasing between 2016 and 2018.

“While the NHS in under significant pressure, these incidents should not occur if the available preventable measures are implemented.”

An NHS Improvement spokesperson said: “The NHS performs over 12 million surgical procedures a year and while incidents like these are thankfully extremely rare, it is vital that when they do happen hospitals investigate, learn and act to minimise risks.”

The figures come after HuffPost UK revealed in March that the health service had forked out £25.3m in compensation and legal fees over the last five years in cases where patients had left surgery with foreign objects inside them.


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