Two hospitals have put up posters in operating theatres reminding surgeons to make sure they have got the right patients.
Oxford University Trust introduced the posters at John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals after four patients received the wrong operation from May to June this year.
Known as ‘never events’, health bosses apologised for the errors which included the wrong patient receiving an endoscopy, a procedure where a thin tube fitted with a camera is run through the body via the throat.
Managers at the Trust, who also plan on introducing specialist staff training to tackle the issue, say the number of errors show no sign of decreasing.
Medical director Tony Berendt said: "No clinician in our hospital comes to work to be, in any sense, careless or to cause harm. I know that the teams that have been involved in these events are deeply upset about what has happened.
"On behalf of those clinicians I would extend my apologies to all patients involved and our public for the inevitable impact on their confidence in our services that these kind of events lead to. We do take them extremely seriously."
A trust spokeswoman said: "These poster reminders are part of a suite of actions to remind staff to thoroughly check a patient's identity."
NHS England defines the events as “largely preventable” incidents that should not occur if healthcare providers are following national guidance or safety recommendations.
Hospitals across England have seen 181 cases in 2018 alone, including the patients incorrectly receiving laser eye surgery, ovary removals, and bowel examinations.
The NHS has been underperforming for years for its patients, ranking in the bottom third of comparisons for international health system performance.
Kate Andrews, Institute of Economic Affairs
The number of ‘never events’ in England failed to decline from 2016 to 2017, with 466 and 467 recorded in both years respectively.
Situations where patients are left with medical equipment in their body after an operation or overdosed on the wrong drugs also fall within the category.
Kate Andrews, news editor at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “It’s welcoming to see Oxfordshire hospitals taking steps to deliver more specialist staff training, to ensure that these kinds of ‘never events’ are better avoided.
“But the fact that such clinical mistakes are considered ‘largely preventable’ should be cause for alarm for the system as a whole. The NHS has been underperforming for years for its patients, ranking in the bottom third of comparisons for international health system performance.
“Substantial reform of the system, so it better focused on patient care, would likely reduce the number of ‘never events’ that occur each year. Sadly, with no meaningful plans for reform on the agenda, completely unnecessary - and largely frightening - errors like this continue to occur and are failing to decline.”
NHS Improvement’s Executive Medical Director and Chief Operating Officer, Dr Kathy McLean said: “It is important that staff continue to be open and honest when things go wrong.
“It is not possible to compare the number of ‘never events’ on an annual basis because the Never Events Policy and Framework and the never events list are regularly revised as clinical practice changes.
“When reporting incidents, we expect hospitals to investigate and take action to improve safety and reduce the risks of them being repeated.”