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What is a Medical Never Event?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Some accidents should just never happen. This is no more true in medicine as it is elsewhere.

The NHS regularly produces a list of ‘Never Events’, which are serious incidents that are considered wholly preventable because guidance or safety recommendations exist to provide strong systematic barriers to these types of mistake.

The list of Never Events includes:

  • Performing surgery at the wrong site
  • Using the wrong implant or prosthetic
  • Retained foreign objects after surgery,
  • In mental health care, the failure to install collapsible shower or curtain rails that present a risk of suicide constitutes a never event
  • Falls from unrestricted windows
  • The unintentional transfusion of mismatched blood or mismatched organ transplants
  • Misplacement of nasogastric tubes
  • Scalding of patients with water used for washing or bathing

For a full up to date list of Never Events, click here.

In the most recent published data, from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2020, 34 incidents meeting the criteria of a Never Event were reported.

The reported incidents included 13 instances of a retained foreign object following a procedure, such as retained surgical or vaginal swabs and even one retained needle. There were 7 instances of surgery at the wrong site, including 4 wrong skin lesions removed, and 7 instances of misplaced nasogastric tubes (*a nasogastric tube should lead from the mouth to the stomach, in these 7 cases, the tube was fed into the lungs by mistake).

In the context of a medical negligence claim, the occurrence of a Never Event will almost always constitute a breach of duty of care as by definition, the events are preventable. For a negligence claim to be successful the Claimant has to prove both a breach of duty of care has occurred and that the breach has caused the person injury or harm.

If you think you have been affected by a Never Event, you should seek advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Proving that the breach of duty of care has caused injury can be complex, especially in the context of existing medical conditions, and its important to have a solicitor experienced in medical negligence claims.

Wilson Browne Solicitors are recognised as specialist in the field. We with solicitors accredited by the Law Society Panel of Clinical Negligence, and on the panel of recommended solicitors by patient safety charity AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents). The firm is ranked in the Legal 500, a who’s who of the legal world.

If you need advice contact our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004

Louise Tyler


Louise Tyler


Louise is the Head of the Medical Negligence Team working in this area of law for 25 years. She is a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, the AvMA (Action for Victims of Medical Accidents) Panel and been appointed to the Executive Committee…