UK surgeons among worst for failing to remove 'foreign bodies' during surgery

3 August 2015

UK surgeons among worst for failing to remove 'foreign bodies' during surgery

UK surgeons among worst for failing to remove 'foreign bodies' during surgery

UK ranked among the worst Western nations for failing to remove 'foreign bodies' after surgery with items ranging from forceps to needles.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that British hospitals are among the worst in the Western world for leaving surgical instruments in patients after surgery.

The UK has the sixth worst record among industrialised nations for surgeons leaving in ‘foreign bodies’ after procedures, with 5.5 cases per 100,000 people discharged from hospital.

Leaving items such as parts of hypodermic needles and swabs in patients’ bodies increases the risk of deadly infections and other complications. It can also result in fatal blood poisoning and organ failure.

The NHS classifies such incidents as ‘never events’ because they should be avoided by systems of checks. There were 102 cases of such ‘never events’ in England in 2014/15. has often dealt with enquiries from the public where they have complained of items being left behind after surgery. These have ranged from needles to metallic objects and are often only picked up months afterwards, leading to intense pain and discomfort in the meantime and which often require further surgery.

Joyce Robins, co-director of pressure group Patient Concern, said more needed to be done to protect patients from such risks

‘It should be made a legal requirement that the checklist of instruments be read out loud and ticked off at the end of each surgical procedure,’ she said. ‘It should not be a matter of pot luck whether some instrument is left inside the patient.’

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘The NHS is recognised around the world as an unrivalled health service but its clinical performance is achieved against day-in day-out pressure on its staff.’

A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘Any mistake of this kind is one too many. We are determined to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world and have one of the most open and transparent reporting systems in place.

‘We are working hard to identify practical ways to ensure such errors are eradicated.’ 

Have you undergone surgery where foreign objects have been left behind?

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