Surgical errors cost NHS £1.1billion a year

    • 09:37, 21 May 2015
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They also place a heavy financial burden on the NHS at a time when resources are under growing pressure from an ageing population and rising demand for services

Surgical errors can have a devastating impact on the lives of affected patients and their families.

They also place a heavy financial burden on the NHS at a time when resources are under growing pressure from an ageing population and rising demand for services.

The NHS Litigation Authority has made orthopaedic surgery one of its key target areas for improved safety due to the high number of claims relating to this type of surgery in particular.

Experts have been appointed to a Safety and Learning Team it has established to identify root causes of surgical errors and publish regular reports that aim to bring about improvements.

In total the NHS’s potential liabilities for clinical negligence claims are now £25.6bn and mistakes during surgery account for a significant chunk of this figure.

Official figures for 2013/14 showed that 15% of clinical negligence claims related to orthopaedic surgery and 11% to general surgery.

Last year the NHS spent £1.1 billion to settle clinical negligence claims – around 1% of the entire NHS budget – while the figure for the NHS’s total potential liabilities for clinical negligence is £25.6bn.

Researchers who investigated more than 2,000 orthopaedic surgery claims found that claims from elective surgery – non-emergency operations - were most common with procedures on the spine and legs.

In trauma surgery, claims were most likely to relate to the upper limbs. Errors in surgery following wrist fractures were identified as a concern, whereas there were no claims related to complex hand surgery.

A separate study of more than 400 claims relating to neurosurgery – involving the brain, spinal cord and related nerves - and neurology from 1995 to 2012 found almost two thirds were due to negligence in neurosurgical care. Payouts were also much higher in cases of neurosurgical errors.

If you or a loved one has suffered from negligence related to surgery you may wish to consider making a surgical error complaint.

Surgical errors can arise through mismanagement or negligence during a procedure carried out under general or local anaesthetic, open surgery, dental surgery or cosmetic surgery.

Patients who are affected may face further surgery to repair the mistake, psychological stress and potentially permanent physical impacts. In some cases errors can be fatal.

Surgical error negligence specialists at may be able to assist you if you are considering making a claim in this area after a failed procedure, poor surgical technique or mismanagement during an operation. can inform you of the relevant complaints departments and guide you through their complaints procedures.

Since autumn last year, patients have been able to compare the survival rates, length of hospital stays, complication rates and so on for patients operated on by thousands of surgeons.

Data are provided on the MyNHS website across 12 speciality areas, including heart surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery and urological surgery.

The system is intended to help make the NHS more transparent but has also sparked debate about whether it might lead surgeons to deliberately avoid carrying out riskier operations.


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