Doctor calls for public inquiry as women and their families weep at emotional Parliamentary meeting into the mesh implant scandal
PUBLISHED: 09:36 20 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:46 20 July 2017
It was standing room only as women and their families from across Britain crammed into a committee room joined by MPs and high profile doctors for an emotional mesh lobby in support of Sling the Mesh.
The campaign was launched by our journalist Kath Sansom.
MP Owen Smith, who chaired the event, pledged to meet with health secretary Jeremy Hunt and table an urgent debate saying: “This is not political this is about women’s health.
“Following the lobby of Parliament an All Party Parliamentary Group on Mesh Implants is being established. It will meet for the first time in September.
“Mesh is a much bigger problem than admitted, better data collection is needed, the proper risk rate must be uncovered.
“I am pleased we were able to give women a sense of being heard and of some progress being made.”
Mr Smith will now meet with Labour front benchers and the MHRA to discuss the problems.
“I have grave concerns that the MHRA is a weak body. I don’t intend to let this go,” he said.
“Next step is a debate in the House of Parliament.”
Women, husbands and their children cried during the two hour meeting as women told how mesh had left them disabled, husbands left them or they had lost jobs and suffered depression or severe anxiety from having a simple 20 minute operation - sold as a quick and simple fix to incontinence or prolapse often caused by childbirth.
Professor Carl Heneghan, editor of the BMJ and professor of evidence based medicine, called for a public enquiry and spoke of the gaps in auditing of patient complications, not just for mesh, but across the board in the NHS.
He said: “Mesh could change the shape of the future across the board.”
Retired surgeon John Osborne, said he tried to warn the medical community about the danger of mesh from the 90s but nobody listened.
He said: “First do no harm. Hearing all these stories; it’s appalling what’s happened. I want to apologise on behalf of my profession.”
Mesh removal expert Suzy Elneil said: “I find meeting the women hard, yet equally they are the reason I keep going.
“It shocks me and upsets me knowing there’s a better way,” she said and added when she watched her first mesh sling incontinence operation in 1997 it was like seeing a slow motion car crash in the pelvis.
Owen added: ”This is the first time women have been heard in Westminster. You’ve done something really important today.”
Karen Preater, 40, told how she was left with intense pain after mesh surgery to treat incontinence.
She said: “My kids don’t remember the mum from three and a half years ago. I don’t do the things I used to do. If I didn’t have my children I wouldn’t be here today.”
Carol Williams, 58, sobbed as she told the meeting how she had been admitted to the Priory clinic after becoming suicidal due to an escalating set of complications from pelvic prolapse mesh.
Others spoke of “cheese wire” pain, removal of organs that had become ensnared in the mesh, loss of sex lives and the psychological toll of not being listened to by doctors.
John Elworthy, editor of the Cambs Times, said: “Keeping up with Kath on her campaign work has been easy, every time you hear a keyboard being typed furiously at the other end of the room you sense she’s working on the social media campaign to hammer home the message.
“Her capacity to combine work for us and run what has become a fast growing national campaign is both extraordinary and exhilarating.
“I’ve been privileged to work over many years with campaigning and spirited journalists but rarely have I encountered anyone with such determined application,”
Lawyers Wedlake Bell have launched a class action for women in England and Wales against mesh makers Johnson & Johnson.
• For details visit Sling The Mesh.
• Around 126,000 mesh implants and tapes for incontinence and prolapse have been used in England alone since 2006.
• Rachel Newton, head of policy at The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “The CSP recommends that women should be offered physiotherapy before, and as a possible alternative to, surgery. However, due to a shortage of specialist pelvic health physiotherapists, some women do not receive their first physiotherapy appointment until after they have gone through surgery. This is too late for many women. Given the outcomes of the report in Scotland in March of this year, the CSP welcomes today’s lobby and a wider review.”