HEALTH chiefs have paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation – after leaving medical objects inside Scots patients after surgery.
Needles, swabs, screws, scalpel blades – and even a pair of forceps have all been discovered inside patients after operations in the past five years.
The “disturbing” findings have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands in patient compensation claims against the NHS.
Politicians and patients groups have described the stats as “deeply worrying” and have called for tighter checks on medical implements before and after surgery.
Official figures, released through Freedom of Information, revealed that NHS Lothian recorded ten incidents since January 2011.
Object left by surgeons “within the patient” included a needle, a swab, and a screw.
The health board also revealed it had paid out £122,827 in 2008/9, and £10,419 the following year in compensation to patients who had objects left inside them after surgery.
At an NHS Borders hospital, end of surgery checks in 2009/ revealed a pair of forceps was missing, which then had to be “removed” from the patient.
In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, there were eight incidents and five claims for compensation made in the last five years, including swabs, disposable surgical instruments and wire and pins.
The health board paid out £47,250 over the five year period.
A total of 19 object, including “suture needle tips”, swans, and tips of guide wires, were all left behind in patients in NHS Tayside following operations since 2007. The board did not pay out any compensation.
NHS Grampian doctors discovered a drill bit, part of a blade tip, needle tip and swab in patient’s wounds after surgery.
The health board faced a total of eight incidents and “less than five” claims, paying out £4,487 in compensation in 2009/10 and £126,318 in 2011/12.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran settled one claim in 2009/10, but refused to give any more details.
Jackie Baillie, Health Secretary for Scottish Labour said the figures were “deeply worrying”.
She added: “With less money and fewer staff, out NHS is buckling under the pressure. These worrying figures show what happens when you try to do so much more with much less money and resources.”
Dr Jean Turner, Executive Director of the Scotland Patient Association, described the findings as “disturbing”
She said basic counts of implements should be carried out before and after an operation and expressed concern over the standards of NHS medical equipment in incidents where parts had broken off instruments.
“One would assume if the instruments were up to the highest standards this should not have happened and may have been through no fault of the surgeons. It could have been due to equipment being not as robust as it should be.”
Eben Wilson of TaxPayers Scotland said: “Taxpayers expect the medical profession to do everything in their power to reduce these events to as near zero as possible.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These incidents are totally unacceptable, but we must remember that these cases are very rare and we now have a world-leading national programme in place to make sure that Scottish hospitals are safe.
“As part of the programme a surgical checklist was introduced in all NHS Boards to improve the quality of care provided to patients involved in surgical procedures. As a result, operations in Scotland are safer than ever before.”