A woman patient admitted or a gynaecological procedure to St Mary's Hospital where Health Minister Lord Darzi is based (a part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust ), has instead had her gall bladder removed in error.

The error, revealed in the latest issue of Private Eye, is particularly stunning because of the major emphasis on quality and patient safety in Lord Darzi's recently-published next-stage review of the NHS, High-Quality Healthcare For All.

Lord Darzi, a colorectal surgeon, was in no way involved in this operation.

Safer surgey checklist
Lord Darzi was also involved as the chair of the group who produced the World Health Organisation's 'safer surgery checklist', which was specifically designed to prevent this kind of incident, where the wrong procedure is carried out on the wrong patient. The first check on this list is "before induction of anaesthesia, patient has confirmed identity, site, procedure and consent".

Lord Darzi also introduced to the trust a procedure for pre-surgery briefing and post-surgery debriefing - intended to ensure the whole team know one another's names and roles, as well as what operation is meant to be carried out on whom. The Imperial website offers no comment on the incident, and no spokesman could be contacted at the time of going to press.

Another of the Health Minister's innovations at St Mary's hospital has been to introduce a 'black box', which as well as monitoring the patient's vital signs, creates a video recording of the surgery.

Assessments of medical error rates vary widely, but a generally accepted figure is that 1 patient in 10 who go into hospital will suffer some harm as a result of the healthcare they receive. The National Patient Safety Agency, whiresponsible for co-ordinating reports of what are termed ‘adverse incidents’, suggested that last year there were 129,000 reported incidents. Those who have researched this area generally agree that patient safety incidents are considerably under-reported.