Preventing a never event

Eureka Inventions Limited is developing a failsafe surgical swab counting product – iCount – that will prevent accidental retention of surgical swabs – a “never event” that is more likely to occur in maternity care.

The challenge

Swabs are used in maternity care for cleansing and to absorb blood and other fluids. They are usually pre-packed in delivery and suture packs. Swabs can be difficult to identify once soaked in blood and are sometimes mistakenly left inside the vagina. Retained swabs following a vaginal birth are a source of maternal morbidity, including pyrexia, infection, pain, secondary post-partum haemorrhage and psychological problems.

Compensation for a never event such as that paid to patients in swab retention cases, runs into millions of pounds per year.

Eureka Inventions required a market assessment to identify the market size and competitive dynamics within the surgical swab market, gather independent clinical opinion regarding the scale of the swab retention issue and identify key manufacturers and distributors operating in the UK market and their market share.

The Approach

Accelerate conducted both primary and secondary research.

Depth telephone interviews were conducted with Clinical Directors, Clinical Lead Consultant Obstetricians, Maternity Ward Managers and AHSN Advisors. Procurement data was gathered from circa 70 NHS Trusts to identify the size, type and number of swabs used by the NHS.

Intelligence was also collated regarding compensation amounts associated with swab retention incidents.


“The team at Accelerate Associates explored the details of the market and the product-market fit in great detail. They undertook structured qualitative surveys of users, payers and influencers at all levels and the report gave us meaningful and granular data.

The report has helped us in our journey to introduce a product that enhances safety in childbirth and surgery by providing a ‘system solution’.”

Dr Kiran Desai, Director, iCountcorrect, Eureka Inventions Ltd.

The Results

Accelerate Associates provided a market assessment report identifying:

  • A detailed breakdown of the UK surgical swab market size by type e.g. custom procedure pack, multipack etc.
  • Of the NHS Trusts surveyed, 60% had recorded swab retention incidents within the last 3 years.
  • 80% of the clinicians interviewed were aware of, or had experience of, a swab retention incident during their career.
  • The leading suppliers and manufacturers of swabs used in the obstetric market.

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