SWABS were accidentally left inside patients after operations – but doctors felt too afraid to challenge their bosses about it.

The damning information was revealed in a report by Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) into practices at Barking, Havering and Redbridge hospitals.

It also shines a light on the way doctors miss cancer, death rates and never events – events which should never have happened in the first place.

“Junior staff present during operations knew swabs had been retained but did not feel they could challenge senior medical staff, which reflects a low safety,” it says.

Dr Nadeem Moghal, medical director of BHRUT said: "Regarding our processes in theatres, we have already made substantial progress in analysing and changing our approach in the light of the never events we reported.

"This has included comprehensive training, more cross-site checks, standardising our approaches to reduce the risk of variation and ensuring all disturbances and disruption during procedures are minimised.

On diagnosing cancer, the report said: “Over the past few months we have seen an increasing number of serious incidents coming through specifically related to missed or delayed diagnosis for cancer."

Dr Moghal said: "We have previously acknowledged our areas to develop around certain radiology procedures. We have made significant changes and improvements in the light of recent feedback.

"This has included the introduction of a new way of working to ensure all our procedures in the specific area of visipaque swallows are robust and in line with national standards and best practice.

"More broadly, we are delivering a comprehensive review of the entire department, working closely with the Royal College of Radiologists.

On excess death rates, the CCG continues to be “significantly concerned” about the trust’s mortality reduction improvement plan.

Dr Nadeem Moghal, medical director of BHRUT said: "Mortality rates are influenced by a huge number of complex and interrelated factors, so we are working to explore exactly what the underpinning causes are, so we can work with key partners to tackle them together.

"Our internal data is showing an improvement already, but as the national benchmarking is on a rolling basis, it will take some months before this is shown in the reported national figures."

Although an improvement plan has been implemented, the CCG noted no reduction in the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SMHI) rates.

Now Andy Walker, of Seven Kings, who attended a meeting to discuss the report last week, has likened the trust to scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire Hospital.

He said: “I was just shocked. I have never seen criticisms so strongly worded. This is worse than when they went into special measure. They are struggling to cope with the increase in patients.

“I fear for the hospitals’ future. Staff are only human- you put too much on their plate and mistakes happen. If they don’t get more staff then it’s reasonable to think we will get more of this.

“It resembles a hospital trust in a developing country, not an industrial one.”

“We don’t spend enough on our NHS. We are trying to get a healthcare service on the cheap.”

Dr Moghal said: "We are all aware of the issues highlighted, and have been working together with the CCG for some time, along with other key partners and experts to take appropriate action.

"We have made significant progress in recent weeks, and this picture is therefore somewhat out of date."