THE number of so-called “never events” occurring in NHS hospitals in England has dropped eight per cent, new figures show.

Provisional data from NHS England shows there were 311 incidents reported between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, compared to 338 the previous year.

NHS England describes never events as “serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if existing national guidance or safety recommendations had been implemented by healthcare providers.”

The most common incident was wrong site surgery, reported 126 times, followed by 102 reports of a retained foreign object post procedure. Third most common was wrong implant/prosthesis, with 38 reports.

Within wrong site surgery, removal of the wrong tooth/teeth was most common with 27 reports, followed by nine reports of the wrong skin lesion excised. Vaginal swabs (31) and surgical swabs (16) were the foreign items most often retained post procedure while there were 18 reports of the wrong lens being operated on and 12 incidents involving the wrong knee prosthesis.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust reported the highest number of never events last year with nine incidents – five of which were for retained foreign objects post procedure. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust came second with eight never events while Mid Essex Hospital Services and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust were third with seven.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust said: “High reporting of incidents is viewed positively because it shows an organisation encourages transparency and learning.

"The trust, therefore, proactively encourages all staff to be open and to report incidents and has a 'no blame' policy so learning can take place to prevent recurrence.

"Incidents are reviewed on a daily basis by an executive director-chaired panel that determines immediate action which needs to be taken to prevent recurrence and to safeguard the welfare of patients."