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20th May 2022

Vaginal swabs left in patients multiple times, NHS reveals

Ellen Fitzpatrick

There was one occasion when a scalpel blade was left in somebody’s body.

There have been nearly 100 cases of foreign objects being left in a patient’s body by mistake after surgeries in England.

According to new NHS figures, vaginal swabs have been left in patients’ bodies a total of 32 times, with surgical swabs have been left 21 times.

Some 407 “never events”, things deemed so serious they should never happen, were recorded in English hospitals from April 2021 until March 2022.

This is the equivalent of nearly eight each week and there has been an increase from the same period the year prior, which had a total of 364.

There was one occasion when a scalpel blade was left in somebody’s body.

Certain investigations into local health trusts are yet to be completed, so this number could be increased further.

Other objects that were left inside patients include part of a pair of wire cutters, the bolt from surgical forceps, a catheter and a laparoscopic specimen bag, which range from 10 to 15cm.

One person also had their ovaries removed by mistake while six people had injections to the wrong eye, with 171 cases of “wrong site” surgery.

There were also reported to be 47 cases where doctors gave the wrong implant or prosthesis and one person having an operation on their breast they did not consent to.

While all rare, seven received wrong blood transfusions and three cases of falls from poorly restricted windows.

The NHS has said that there have been millions of procedures done correctly each year but overworked staff occasionally make mistakes.

According to the data presented, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number of incidents in a single hospital, with 11 in total.

This was followed then by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham University Hospitals NHS Trust which both reported 10 in total.