ROYAL Berkshire Hospital (RBH) has carried out an investigation into how medical air was given to a patient instead of oxygen in an incident from December 2018.

Medical air, which contains 21% oxygen and is likened to ‘atmospheric air’, is typically used to drive ventilators, to carry gas for anaesthetic agents and as a power source for driving surgical tools in the operating theatre.

An NHS report from three years ago outlined that as many as 120 patients had died or suffered “serious harm” after medical air was inadvertently given to them instead of oxygen from January 2013 to June 2016.

Berkshire’s top health bosses met to discuss the work of the body at a meeting on Tuesday, March 12, and Nurse Director Debbie Simmons told colleagues the Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust (RBFT) had responded “promptly and robustly” to the incident, which has been classified as a ‘never event’.

A spokesperson for Berkshire West CCG told The Chronicle: “A ‘Never Event’ is an incident that has been deemed in NHS England guidance as something that should not occur.

“The case mentioned in the Board meeting concerned a patient being connected to medical air instead of oxygen and, whilst they came to no harm, it’s on a list of recognised ‘never events’ and shouldn’t happen.

“A full investigation was carried out and, like many other hospitals, the RBH has now capped off medical air on wards, apart from respiratory, to minimise the chances of human error.”

A report produced for the CCG also outlined that awareness sessions took place daily on all hospital wards with piped air and all air flow meters have been removed from the wards.

At the meeting, Ms Simmons was detailing how the CCG had performed over the last year, and a number of ‘serious incidents’ were also reported from some of the NHS trusts.

These included four ‘serious incidents’, some involving self-harm, from the Berkshire Health Foundation Trust in December 2018.