Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has announced a drive to reduce medication and prescription errors which put pressure on hospital beds and can cost lives.
An estimated 1 million patients are year are said to be hospitalised as a result of medication problems.
Mr Hunt cites the tragic case of Wayne Jowett who died in 2001 after a cancer drug was wrongly injected into his spine instead of into a vein.
The drug in question was Vincristine, one of two drugs with which Wayne Jowett was being treated with for Leukaemia. Vincristine has to be administered into a vein. If it is injected in to the spine then it causes severe pain, spasms, paralysis and invariably death.
Freeths' Paul Balen represented Wayne Jowett's family at the inquest after the death of the 18 year old apprentice mechanic and stock car enthusiast 16 years ago as well as in the subsequent clinical negligence claim.
Paul reflected today on how Wayne's legacy remains as yet unfulfilled:
"It took over 5 years to introduce design changes to prevent the error which killed him and that medication error was already a "never" event. I vividly remember receiving a letter from a still grieving mother whose child had died as a result of the same error 25 years before Wayne's death. There had been an inquiry following that death as well. It is essential that lessons are learnt when mistakes happen and that the minister demonstrates effective action to back up his stated intentions."
Never events by their very definition are mistakes that should not have occurred once - to see them repeated is unacceptable. As clinical negligence solicitors we understand that human error can not always be entirely avoided, but with adequate safeguards mistakes of this serious nature can and should be.
It is hoped that Mr Hunt will ensure the necessary time and resources are invested in training, new technologies and procedures to ensure that no future patients suffer unnecessarily in the way Wayne Jowett did.
If you think that you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of a medication error or negligent medical care, we may be able to help you.
Doctors have previously warned about patients getting the wrong drugs because handwriting on prescriptions was illegible or medicines with similar names had packets that looked the same as each other. Mr Hunt cited the case of Wayne Jowett, 18, who died in 2001 after a cancer drug was wrongly injected into his spine. Equipment has since been redesigned to make this impossible but Mr Hunt argued: “Should it really have taken a tragedy to precipitate change? By giving this issue more profile, we can do much more to create a proactive, safety-centred culture around medication.”