Two patients die within a fortnight of each other due to blunders at Northern General Hospital

Northern General Hospital
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Two patients died following errors at a Sheffield hospital within the space of a fortnight, it has emerged.

One person died after a delay in treatment at the Northern General Hospital’s A&E department on March 8 last year, and the other following a delayed diagnosis at the same hospital on March 18.

The fatalities were among five recorded by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals during 2016 which happened after suspected safety errors at hospitals managed by the NHS trust.

The other deaths followed a fall at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, incorrect cancer treatment at Weston Park Hospital and issues with the management of a ‘deteriorating patient’ at the Northern General Hospital.

They were revealed in a list obtained under the Freedom of Information Act of the 32 ‘serious untoward incidents’ – SUI – recorded by the NHS trust during 2016, up to November 23.

Dr David Throssell, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We take every one of these incidents extremely seriously and always undertake a full investigation into the causes.”

Hospital chiefs today assured patients the number of serious safety errors last year is a tiny fraction of the two million people seen during that time.

There were 32 serious untoward incidents – where the potential for harm is so great they require immediate investigation to reduce the chances of a repeat – recorded by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals last year up to November 23 across the sites it manages.

Those included a handful of SUIs which happened in 2015 but were not recorded until the following year, and the hospitals trust said only 29 had so far been reported for 2016 – fewer than in either of the previous two years.

Dr David Throssell, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our priority is always to provide safe, high-quality care and of the two million patients we cared for last year, there were 29 reports of a serious untoward incident.

“We take every one of these incidents extremely seriously and always undertake a full investigation into the causes.

“We are very sorry that any of these events happened and especially where the incident tragically resulted in harm to the patient.

“Often the incident is not the result of a deliberate failing, more often than not it is a case of genuine unintentional human error.

“But in all the instances reported, a range of actions has been implemented with many additional checks and procedures put in place to help limit the chance of these errors happening again.”

The list of SUIs investigated by the trust last year included one ‘never event’ – a blunder so serious and preventable it should never be allowed to happen. In this case an anaesthetic was applied to the wrong part of a patient’s body at Northern General Hospital.

The mistake was identified before surgery began, and the patient was unharmed.

Other safety alarms reported at the city’s hospitals last year included a failure to diagnose liver cancer, a breech birth which resulted in a baby requiring resuscitation and a tourniquet being left on the arm of a patient who subsequently developed deep vein thrombosis – DVT.

Extra training sessions, increased supervision and new guidelines are among the changes implemented after investigations into SUIs at the hospitals, to prevent such errors reoccurring.

While some SUIs resulted in death or serious injury, others caused no harm to the patients concerned.

It is also important to note that patients who died may not have survived even without the potential safety breaches.

During 2015, the trust recorded 31 SUIs across its hospitals, including two never events, and in 2014 there were 35 SUIs and three never events.