Swab left inside Bath hospital maternity patient

Royal United Hospital, Bath
Image caption The maternity unit at the RUH is run by the Great Western Hospital

A medical swab was left inside a woman for 10 days after she gave birth in a maternity ward at Bath's Royal United Hospital, the BBC has learned.

Swindon's Great Western Hospital (GWH) runs the unit and is investigating. It is the second time a swab has been left in a GWH patient in a year.

Dr Helen Price, who is in charge of maternity services, has apologised.

"It's important. It should not have been left in there and we are sorry that it was," she said.

"I am really happy to say that this woman has come to no long term harm from this event. There has been no danger to her."

'Really rare'

The swab was left in the woman following the delivery of her baby and removed 10 days later during a routine post-natal check-up.

Dr Price likened the event to someone "leaving a tampon in a bit too long".

Managers at GWH have said they will report on the incident at the end of the month and are also looking at reviewing staffing levels in the hope of recruiting more midwives.

Since 2011, the GWH has delivered more than 9,000 babies a year across the Swindon and Wiltshire area to "consistent excellent feedback", Dr Price said.

The incident is being treated as a so-called "never event" - something the government says should never happen if patient safety rules are followed.

'These things happen'

The GWH had six never events in 2011 and 2012, including the swab that was left inside a breast cancer patient after surgery in August last year.

"All these events have the same label as 'never', but they are quite different and they are really rare," said Dr Price.

"The issues that came out, I think, from the other swab event is a swab that was left in an armpit.

"That was a very serious investigation, a serious event, and it has had a lot of good learning and outcome from it."

Peter Walsh, the chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, said most incidents of "retained instruments or retained swabs" were in the context of "planned surgery".

"I have to say that even in a planned environment, occasionally these things are still happening. They're happening more than they should do," he added.

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