HC Deb 06 November 1961 vol 648 cc617-8
40. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if his attention has been drawn to the joint memorandum of the Medical Defence Union and the Royal College of Nursing relating to surgical operations performed on the wrong patient and on the wrong part of the body; what steps he is taking to ensure that such errors are eliminated in future; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Powell

Yes, Sir; I propose to ask hospital authorities to review their relevant procedures.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that, quite apart from the cases which have been successfully hushed up, there have been 28 known cases of this kind within the last two years? Does he not agree that this is the result of scandalous carelessness? Will he give an undertaking that the recommendations of the memorandum, which should make it impossible for mistakes of this kind to occur, will be brought to the attention of hospital authorities and that they will be asked to adopt these procedures?

Mr. Powell

In answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I propose to do that, though some modification may be desirable, and I will ask hospitals in the first instance to review their own procedures. I agree that these are all avoidable accidents, and no step should be overlooked which might prevent their occurence.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

What have these surgical errors cost the National Health Service in damages or compensation?

Mr. Powell

I cannot trace that there have been claims in respect of all or, indeed, the majority of them, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman is interested, I will see whether I can obtain figures for him.