Better care, fewer women suffering crippling, lifelong pain following a simple operation. Scotland plans sweeping reforms. Changes welcomed by campaigning journalist
- Credit: Archant
Three out of four mesh products used in women’s gynaecology operations will no longer be used in Scotland after new measures were outlined to protect patients.
The news has been welcomed by mesh injured women and campaigners around the world who are looking to Scotland to lead the way in banning mesh products.
The safety review was launched after women spoke out about being left crippled for life and in agony.
The Scottish report has recommended surgeons no longer use TVTO mesh for stress urinary incontinence and two types of mesh used for prolapsed organ surgery.
They will still be able to use TVT mesh but only after a woman has undergone rigorous talks with a physiotherapist, surgeon and nursing team.
Scotland looks set to make the changes despite Government watchdog body, the MHRA, saying the surgery is safe,
Canadian hernia surgeon Dr Robert Bendavid, who has not worked for two years to research complications, write reports and give talks to health professionals on the dangers of mesh used in all areas of the body, said: “This is definitely a major victory.
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“Let the good news spread. The measures put in place will slowly snuff out the practice. The advantage of this decision will be the ripple effect it must have.”
New Zealand mesh injured campaigner Carmel Berry has entered the Scottish report to New Zealand’s Health Select Committee as evidence to get the mesh suspended there.
She said: “I hope they will see this as a critical document in their consideration of the petition.”
She added it was time for medical regulatory bodies globally to “wake up and realise the scale of this problem.”
Lana Keeton, an American patient advocate and president of Truth in Medicine, said: “Finally some sanity in a world of unethical surgeons profiting from harm to their patients.”
Hear Our Voice campaigner Elaine Holmes, from Glasgow, said: “We’re now confident no other woman will be left unaware of the horrific side-effects of mesh implants.
“We called for a total ban on mesh products as we believe time will show just how dangerous they are. But we’re happy to support the review recommendations as long as they and our petition points are put in place and actioned before any suspension is lifted.
Fellow campaigner Olive McIlroy, from Renfrew, said: “We’re also happy doctors will no longer be able to turn to mesh products as a first option but rather as a last option.
“We strongly believe doctors failed their patients in the past by not reporting adverse incidents, which allowed mesh manufacturers to continue to state their products were safe when clearly they were causing injury.”
Sling the Mesh campaigner Kath Sansom said: “This is a big step in helping prevent other women suffering. I hope England follows suit and also adds a National Register so there is hard evidence about how many women suffer.”
Scottish health secretary Shona Robison welcomed the interim report and said: “We know that these procedures, in some cases, can have serious consequences and life changing side effects.
“Our advice to boards around suspending the use of mesh remains in place. We need to see the final report before we consider any changes that could potentially be made. We also need to be confident the recommendations for improved safeguards have been agreed and implemented.
Chairman of the Independent Review, Dr Lesley Wilkie, said: “This report points the way forward for improving services for women.
“The report recommends improvements in clinical governance ensuring above all that women with these conditions can be assured that the treatment which they receive within the NHS is evidence based, audited and likely to produce a good result.”
The changes mean doctors will not be able to use mesh implants unless authorised by a multi-disciplinary medical team.
They must report adverse incidents or face possible sanctions - victims say the scale of the problems has been covered up by doctors failing to properly record complications.
An MHRA spokesperson said: “The MHRA continues to sympathise greatly with women who have suffered complications after surgery.
“We are committed to helping to address the serious concerns that have been raised by some patients and have undertaken a great deal of work to continuously assess findings of studies undertaken by the clinical community over many years, as well as considering the feedback from all sources in that time.
“What we have seen, and continue to see, is that the greater proportion of the clinical community and patients support the use of these devices in the UK in the treatment of distressing conditions of incontinence and organ prolapse.
“We note that the Interim Report finds that for the majority of woman, serious complications do not occur and we will continue to work in collaboration with patients, the NHS, professional bodies and international partners to ensure emerging issues are detected and acted upon quickly.”
The MHRA, however, uses the BSUG database where only 20 to 30 per cent of surgeons admit to reporting problems, which makes complication rates appear lower.