THREE people have died following errors of handing out drugs at Southampton’s biggest hospital, the Echo can reveal. 

As well as the loss of lives, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) has paid out more than £320,000 worth of compensation to patients who have suffered the consequences of medical negligence between 2016 and 2020.

More than 10,000 medication errors were made at the Trust over the course of four years leaving 8,392 individuals suffering with the aftermath, a freedom of information has uncovered. Of the errors made, three mistakes resulted in the death of three people.

Despite the high numbers of errors over the four year period, more than half of them caused no harm to the patient. 

The figures revealed that of the 10,887 errors, 6,395 were recorded as a near miss or negligible.

The statistics have raised concerns with a Southampton medical negligence specialist who says that drugs errors can have a “significant, life changing impact on individuals”.

A Southampton MP has also said the numbers are “worrying” and need to be “under control” at the Trust.

But the Trust claims that a “significant proportion” of the errors recorded are “record keeping errors”.

Daily Echo:

University Hospital Southampton

A drugs error is "any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer".  

Between 2016 to 2017, one person lost their life as a result of a medication error at the Trust. 

The statistics have revealed that the highest number of errors were recorded between January 2, 2017, to January 1, 2018, with 2,815 errors - three or which resulted in a major risk to patients, and two of which resulted in death.

One patient died after antibiotic treatment for rapidly evolving sepsis was delayed. 

A second patient died following failure to prescribe Omeprazole - a medication used to treat severe acid reflux - during their admission to hospital. 

Daily Echo:

University Hospital Southampton

Between January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2017, the UHS recorded 2,699 drugs errors. 

A total of 2,672 were recorded between January 2, 2018,  to January 1, 2019, and 2,701 were recorded January 2, 2019, to January 1, 2020.
Over the four year period, 2,487 errors were minor, 102 were moderate, and six were major.

During one financial year at UHS, 2.3 million prescriptions are written and 10 million doses of medicine are given to patients.

A spokesperson from UHS said that  a “significant proportion” of the errors recorded are “record keeping error as part of the systems process”.

They added: “We report and review each case individually as we are committed to a culture of learning and improving.  

Daily Echo:

“Designing errors out of the system – whether that be changes to training, communication techniques, re-designing packaging, using electronic systems etc, is a key tenet of that. 

“We also recognise that our staff do not come to work intending to cause harm.  

“We value and appreciate that it is our staff’s personal commitment to always put patient care and safety first and recognise that it is usually the context of ergonomic, human and system factors that cause errors and that is our focus for improving patient safety.”

A total of 8,993 formal apologies have been issued by the Trust and 13 investigations were carried out - of which five resulted in further action being taken.

During the four year period, the Trust has paid out £326,931 in compensation to those affected by drugs errors.

Daily Echo:

Maya Sushila, Moore Barlow

Maya Sushila, medical negligence specialist at Southampton-based law firm Moore Barlow said it was important for the Trust to “learn from their mistakes” and “ensure measures are put in place”.

She told the Daily Echo: “Medical mistakes and errors can have significant, life changing impacts on individuals depending on the seriousness of the mistake. 
“I have dealt with clients who have fallen foul of all types of clinical care with serious repercussions on their ability to lead a normal life from the amount of care they may require, to their inability to work and having to deal with constant pain. 
“All of my clients would return any compensation they have recovered, in a heartbeat, if they could have their old lives back again.”

Daily Echo:

Royston Smith, MP

Southampton Itchen MP, Royston Smith said the level of errors uncovered at UHS over the last four years are “of course worrying”. 

“I know that the Trust will be disappoint as anyone with those figures,” he added.

“They’ll be doing everything they can to learn the lessons to get those numbers down, to ensure our hospital remains as safe as possible.

“They will also know, as I know, that every penny spent in compensation is money that can’t be spent in frontline health care. That’s why we need to get these errors under control.”

MP for Southampton Test, Alan Whitehead, and MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, were both approached for a comment by the Daily Echo but they did not respond.

The Daily Echo also contacted the Department of Health and Social Care regarding the figures, but they did not respond.