Use of misplaced nasogastric and orogastric tubes was first recognised as a patient safety issue by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) in 2005 and three further alerts were issued by the NPSA and NHS England between 2011 and 2013. Introducing fluids or medication into the respiratory tract or pleura via a misplaced nasogastric or orogastric tube is a Never Event. Never Events are considered ‘wholly preventable where guidance or safety recommendations that provide strong systemic protective barrier are available at a national level, and should have been implemented by all healthcare providers.’
Between September 2011 and March 2016, 95 incidents were reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) and/or the Strategic Executive Information System (StEIS) where fluids or medication were introduced into the respiratory tract or pleura via a misplaced nasogastric or orogastric tube. While this should be considered in the context of over 3 million nasogastric or orogastric tubes being used in the NHS in that period, these incidents show that risks to patient safety persist. Checking tube placement before use via pH testing of aspirate and, when necessary, x-ray imaging, is essential in preventing harm.
Who: All organisations where nasogastric or orogastric tubes are used for patients receiving NHS-funded care.
- Identify a named executive director who will take responsibility for the delivery of the actions required in this alert.
- Using the resources supplied with this alert, undertake a centrally coordinated assessment of whether your organisation has robust systems for supporting staff to deliver safety-critical requirements for initial nasogastric and orogastric tube placement checks.
- If the assessment identifies any concerns, use the resources supplied with this alert to develop and implement an action plan to ensure all safety-critical requirements are met. S
- hare this assessment and agree any related action plan within relevant commissioner assurance meetings.
- Share the key findings of this assessment and the main actions that have been taken in the form of a public board paper.