Penningtons anticipates increase in clinical negligence claims against Derriford Hospital

Posted: 22/07/2013


Last week Derriford hospital in Plymouth was reported by The Guardian to have failed to protect the safety of patients, after an investigation into at least eight serious surgical errors in the past 12 months. The CQC carried out an unannounced inspection where the high number of incidents was identified.

According to The Guardian, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has been told to make immediate improvements to protect patient safety during surgery, after records showed that the hospital currently has the second highest number of ‘never events’ in England over a four year period. The term ‘never event’ is used to describe serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if the available preventative measures have been implemented.

The Guardian reported that between 12 and 19 March there were three reported ‘never events’ that prompted an inspection . These incidents included a surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body, a doctor performing a wrong site diagnostic procedure and a patient being given the wrong implant. In another incident, a surgeon began an angioplasty to widen a patient’s blocked artery on the right side of his chest, when it should have been performed on the left.

An investigation into practice at the hospital revealed that the way in which operations were scheduled was putting staff under too much pressure and that timetabling was unrealistic.

A similar investigation was launched in 2011 after the hospital encountered a chain of six never events, leading the CQC to warn that unless urgent action was taken the trust would be facing prosecution or the complete termination of its operating theatres. The CQC has now issued a formal warning and the trust is due to respond shortly.

Philippa Luscombe, partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “To have such a high number of never events identified in one hospital in a short period of time is a matter of real concern. Given these findings, it seems likely that patients affected will be bringing claims against Derriford Hospital and we are already acting for individuals investigating claims against this trust. Hopefully the combination of the failings being highlighted by the CQC, the publicity and the fact that there are likely to be claims arising should result in steps being taken to ensure that this pattern does not continue.”


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