Vaginal swabs and surgical tampons (larger than tampons used by women during their menstrual cycle) are used to absorb bodily fluids in a number of procedures both in delivery suites and surgical theatres on maternity wards. They are intended to be removed once a procedure is complete.
Retained vaginal swabs are classed as a ‘never event’. A never event is a serious incident that is entirely preventable. Data compiled by NHS England/Improvement shows that accidental retention of vaginal swabs is the most common in the ‘retained foreign objects’ category.
The report sets out the case