MPs to debate government’s failure to act on pelvic mesh inquiry findings

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament:

Anti-mesh campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament in 2017. - Credit: Archant

A debate in parliament tomorrow (Thursday) will highlight how the government has not implemented recommendations from an inquiry which exposed failings around pelvic mesh implants.  

Baroness Julia Cumberledge published a hard-hitting report which highlighted serious patient failings and the lack of regulation into the use of such medical devices, mainly used to treat stress-incontinence in women.

Baroness Cumberlge talks to BBC News Online in Belfast in an interview iwth Marie Louise Connolly

Baroness Cumberlge talks to BBC News Online when the First Do No Harm report was released in July 2020. - Credit: Archant

A year after the First Do No Harm report was released, campaigners, including Kath Sansom, a former journalist for this newspaper group, argue the Government’s only outcome has been a “half-hearted apology” from the former health secretary Matt Hancock.  

Emma Hardy, a Labour MP for Hull, chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group into mesh and will lead tomorrow’s back-bench debate with Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris. 

She said: “Women deserve better than the Government’s refusal to implement the Baroness Cumberlege recommendations.  

“The recommendations will not only make life better for those living with mesh complications, they will also improve patient safety for everyone in the future.” 

Emma Hardy, vice chari of the all party parliamentary group into surgical mesh

Emma Hardy, chairs the All-party Parliamentary Group into surgical mesh - Credit: Archant

The First Do No Harm report explored in detail the dismissive attitude towards women harmed by mesh implants, and also women and their babies harmed by Primodos pregnancy testing drug and epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate.  

Primodos was discontinued in the 1970s. Sodium Valproate is still used today and there are fears women are still not being warned of the risks to their unborn baby if they take it during pregnancy. 

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The debate will call for all Cumberlege recommendations to be implemented without further delay, including financial redress for women and sweeping reform of the healthcare and regulation framework. 

It is also calling for a retrospective audit of mesh to work out the number of women suffering. The Cumberlege report suggests contacting all women who had mesh in the year 2010 to see how they are in 2021. 

A TVT mesh sling which can be inserted into women to treat stress incontinence and prolapse. Picture

A TVT mesh sling which can be inserted into women to treat stress incontinence and prolapse. Picture: Kath Sansom - Credit: Archant

Kath, who lives in March, Cambs, founded the “Sling The Mesh” campaign six years ago to raise awareness of life-changing complications some women are suffering following the procedure.

It now has 9,000 members from around the world.

She said: “Mesh for stress incontinence was suspended in 2018 and we believe it should not be brought back until the audit is carried out until we know the true scale of complications.

“Scottish Government have pledged to never bring it back. Sadly, surgeons in England are pushing for it to be used again.”

Also included in the recommendations is a call for industry to declare all monies and gifts to doctors, teaching hospitals and research institutions.

Kath Sansom, from March, has been campaigning since 2015 to raise awareness of complications women h

Kath Sansom, from March, has been campaigning since 2015 to raise awareness of complications women have been suffering from pelvic mesh implants. - Credit: Supplied

Kath added: “In post pandemic times it is more important than ever to know who is funding our research and prescribing decisions.

“In America there is a Sunshine Payment Act, forcing healthcare giants, who make billions in profits, to declare all the money and non-financial gifts they hand out.

“It has been proved such funding leads to bias in prescribing and bias in the scientific research. We need this legislation for the UK. That way campaigners and patients can see who is funding a doctor’s voice.”

Women campaigning against the use of mesh implants, and the suspension of surgery to remove them, ga

Women campaigning against the use of mesh implants, and the suspension of surgery to remove them, gathered outside University College Hospital in London in 2019. Picture: Sling the Mesh. - Credit: Archant

The parliamentary debate will also look at the discrepancies in official statistics, and campaigners are concerned this means nobody knows how many women have been harmed.

Kath said: “We are deeply concerned about a significant discrepancy between NHS figures and surgeon data on mesh complications – we fear surgeons have downplayed complications by almost ten times.

“The truth is nobody knows the scale of this women’s health scandal and the only way to get to the bottom of it is a retrospective audit.”

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