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Surgery can often involve complex and delicate medical procedures that require precision, skill, and the utmost attention to detail. However, despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals, surgical errors can occur, leading to serious consequences for patients.
Whilst surgical errors are relatively rare, according to a study of NHS England ‘never events’ between 2012 and 2020, there were approximately 800 such preventable surgical mistakes.
NHS England defines ‘Never Events’ as ‘patient safety incidents that are wholly preventable where guidance or safety recommendations that provide strong systemic protective barriers are available at a national level and have been adopted by healthcare providers.’
Effective communication: Communication is key in any surgical team. Clear and concise communication among team members, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, is crucial to prevent misunderstandings and errors. Utilising standardised protocols and checklists can help ensure that all necessary steps are taken before, during, and after surgery.
Comprehensive preoperative planning: Thorough preoperative planning is essential for a successful surgical outcome. This includes a detailed review of the patient’s medical history, conducting necessary tests and imaging, and ensuring that the surgical team is fully informed and prepared for the procedure.
Adequate training and skill development: Surgeons and healthcare professionals must undergo extensive training and continuous professional development to stay updated with the latest advancements in surgical techniques and safety measures. This helps minimise the chances of errors and ensures that patients receive the highest standard of care.
Utilising technology: The integration of technology in surgery has revolutionised the field and significantly reduced the risk of errors. Advanced imaging techniques, robotic-assisted surgery, and computer-assisted navigation systems can now aid surgeons in performing procedures with greater precision and accuracy.
Statistics released by NHS England indicate that between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, there were 169 instances of surgery being conducted at the wrong site on a patient’s body. This included:
Figures released by NHS Resolution indicate that between the financial years 2010/11 and 2019/2020:
If you believe you have suffered from a surgical error, it is crucial to take the following steps: