If surgical negligence has set you back, we'll help you move forward

Retained surgical instruments can cause serious internal harm, with claims focusing on costs for subsequent surgeries and compensation for the resulting health complications.

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a retained surgical instrument injury, we can help. If your injuries were caused by the negligence of a doctor, GP, or other medical professional, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

You can make a No Win, No Fee compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.

You are not alone

On average, each week two people in England have a foreign object left inside their following a surgical or invasive procedure. Incidents like this are defined by the NHS as 'Never Events' (i.e. they should never have happened).

According to the latest finalised data in 2023, there were 101 Retained foreign object post procedure in 2019/20. as (england.nhs.uk).

These are usually serious clinically negligent incidents, which are wholly preventable when guidance and safety recommendations, available to all NHS healthcare providers, are implemented.

The most common claims follow general surgery, obstetrics, orthapaedic surgery , gynaecology, and urolgy surgery (sce. resolution.nhs.uk)

If you decide to make a retained surgical instrument claim, your medical negligence solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you need to move forward.

Am I eligible for retained surgical instrument compensation?

You can claim medical negligence compensation if a medical professional's substandard treatment caused you harm.

Use our injury claim calculator to find out if you can claim. Alternatively, you can speak to a claims advisor on 0800 376 1001 and find out if you have a claim in minutes.

How long do I have to start a surgical negligence claim?

For a retained surgical instrument claim, you usually have 3 years to make a claim from the date you became aware of the negligent treatment (date of knowledge).

If you are under 18, a parent, guardian or adult 'litigation friend' can make a claim on your behalf. Once you turn 18, you have until your 21st birthday to start a clinical negligence claim.

What if your injury was diagnosed months or years after treatment?

You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.

The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).

It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.

How much compensation can I claim for a retained surgical instrument?

The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:

  • the seriousness of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.

Surgical negligence compensation calculator

Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.

Updated April 2024 Compensation Calculator v3.04

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College (judiciary.uk) and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

How is compensation calculated if I have multiple injuries?

Special damages

Special damages are awarded to compensate you for any costs or losses you've incurred or might incur as a result of your accident. These costs might include lost wages or business losses (if you're self-employed), and any other out of pocket expenses.

Special damages may also be awarded for medical treatments or procedures that you might need to treat your retained surgical instrument, including surgical removal, imaging tests, antibiotics and pain management.

Read more:

A complete list of recoverable losses in a personal injury claim

What is a surgical/invasive procedure?

As well as operations in theatre, surgical/invasive procedures include interventional radiology, cardiology, interventions related to natural birth and interventions performed outside of the surgical environment e.g. central line placement in ward areas.

What is classified as a foreign object?

At the start of any surgical/invasive procedure, certain items are subject to a formal counting. The NHS has a definitive list, which includes swabs, instruments, needles and guidewires. Before the operation is completed, the items are recounted and checked to ensure no foreign objects remain inside the patient.

If this is carried out correctly, a patient should never suffer from a foreign object left inside their body. But in the 12 months to 31 March 2015, 102 of the 308 Never Events recorded by NHS England were classified as retained foreign object post-procedure. 46% of these were retained swabs.

What can happen if a foreign object is retained in the body?

It could cause a number of problems for a patient. Pain and infection are complications of retained foreign objects post-procedure. More serious problems can occur, including sepsis and organ failure.

When a second procedure is necessary to remove the foreign object, this prolongs recovery time.

It does not matter what size the retained foreign object is, or its potential to cause harm, it will still be classified as a Never Event.

Are all foreign objects included?

Not all items used during an operation are subject to formal counting. Those inserted any time before the procedure (where they will be removed during the procedure), are not counted. Others intentionally left in place, with removal planned for a later date, are noted on the patient's records.

Sometimes items are known to be missing prior to the completion of the procedure and maybe within the patient (e.g. screw or drill fragments). Further action to locate and retrieve them may be impossible or more damaging to the patient, so they are left in place, the patient informed and the items recorded.

Are there grounds for a clinical negligence claim?

Although foreign objects have the potential to cause serious patient harm or death, this need not have occurred for the incident to be classed as a Never Event. As their name suggests, Never Events should not happen. When they do it could be medical negligence and there may be grounds for a compensation claim.

What should you do if you have suffered from a retained foreign object?

Although retained foreign objects are established never events, it is important to remember that every situation is different. It is wise to seek legal advice from a specialist lawyer who will listen to the details of the case and consider the options in pursuing a claim for medical negligence.

Further information

The revised Never Events Policy and Framework published on 27 March 2015, includes changes to the definition of a Never Event and adjustments to the types of incident included on the Never Events list of 14 incident types. It is applicable for all incidents occurring on or after 1 April 2015. Further details may be found here.

Clinical negligence claims

Retained surgical instrument injuries are usually categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.

No win, no fee surgical negligence compensation claims

With no win, no fee, you can claim surgical negligence compensation without financial risk. If your claim isn't successful, you pay nothing. If you win, you only pay a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation.

Find out more about how no win, no fee claims work

Get expert advice now

Interested in talking to a medical negligence specialist about your claim?

  • Calls are FREE
  • Confidential consultation
  • No obligation to claim

Call 0800 376 1001

Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9:30am-5pm

or arrange a callback

Citations

Source: (reviewed: 11/12/2023)

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Author:
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor