Hundreds of appalling medical errors, including leaving surgical equipment inside a patient’s body, are dogging hospitals in the Midlands – with an average of one every other day.
Doctors and nurses repeatedly commit dangerous blunders from not sterilising theatre tools to forgetting to take out catheters or give vital drugs to patients, latest damning figures for NHS West Midlands health authority show.
And 41 patients have even been left with instruments in their body after operations and other hospital procedures forcing them to be readmitted for treatment in the five year period from 2003 to 2008.
But Midland health authority bosses have failed to clamp down on problems and have watched hospital admissions due to blunders continuously rise from 156 in 2003-04 to 190 in 2007-08.
Nationally, the number of people being admitted for medical mistakes has increased by 28 per cent in five years with a 47 per cent rise in people having organs cut or punctured during surgery.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, who obtained the shock statistics, said: “These figures raise serious concerns and call into question the Government’s claim to be making patient safety a priority.
“There really is no excuse for leaving objects inside people. Far too many avoidable mistakes are still being made.
“Many doctors and nurses are under enormous amounts of pressure to meet Government targets. We have to ensure that patient safety isn’t being compromised to satisfy the whims of Whitehall. If we really want to raise standards in the NHS then we need to give local people the power to hold their health services to account.”
In 2007/2008 alone, there were 59 patients, including two children, in the West Midlands who were admitted into hospital because a surgeon had unintentional made a cut with a knife or other blunder while on the operating table. Helen Jackson, West Midlands Health Authority spokeswoman, refused to comment on the high figures and if anything was being done to reduce errors.
Two Birmingham patients were left awake during operations and able to feel instruments being moved around their body after errors by Birmingham anaesthetist Christopher Vella Bonnici.
Mr Bonnici, of Lydiate Ash, near Bromsgrove, was suspended for one month in 2007 by the General Medical Council for unprofessional behaviour, including falling asleep during an operation and watching a DVD during another.
Patients complained of feeling pain and hearing the chatter of theatre staff but could do nothing about it while under semi-sedation controlled by Mr Bonnici during operations at Birmingham Women’s Hospital in Edgbaston, and nearby Priory Hospital over 2003 and 2004.
Documents on blunders released in 2006 also showed medical errors in Birmingham and the Black Country included a home circumcision which went wrong when a team ended up at an incorrect address and another case where a brain surgery patient had holes drilled into the wrong side of his head.