MP calls for UK wide suspension on women’s mesh implants which have “ruined lives”

MP Owen Smith has called for a UK wide mesh suspension PHOTO: Owen Smith

MP Owen Smith has called for a UK wide mesh suspension PHOTO: Owen Smith - Credit: Archant

An MP has called for a UK wide suspension of women’s mesh implants until it can be proved they are safe to use.

MP Norman Lamb promised in 2013 that there would be better reporting and long term data of mesh comp

MP Norman Lamb promised in 2013 that there would be better reporting and long term data of mesh complications. Campaigners say that in 2017 they are still waiting.PHOTO: Pexels - Credit: Archant

The plea comes hot on the heels of criticism by a society which said surgeons have failed to report mesh problems.

Eight years ago the same society admitted it was concerned that guidelines for mesh were not being followed in all hospital trusts.

MP Owen Smith said today (June 30) that mesh is a global: “Scandal and one that’s under reported and misunderstood.”

He said: “There needs to be suspension of the use of this material,” because “there are other things that can be done, until we get greater clarity of how many women have had these awful reactions and whether its safe to use.”

Kath Sansomn launched patient safety group Sling The Mesh in 2015

Kath Sansomn launched patient safety group Sling The Mesh in 2015 - Credit: Archant

Patient safety campaign Sling The Mesh is calling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to halt mesh operations to fall in line with Scotland where a suspension was called for in June 2014.

This week it was confirmed the Scottish suspension would remain until 2018 - by then it will have been four years protection for women, yet there is no such safety net for patients in the rest of the UK.

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Mr Smith said: “There are women all over the world who have had this treatment for prolapse and incontinence and a very high proportion, much higher than we appreciated, certainly much higher than the MHRA appreciated, have had really, really awful reactions and whose lives have been ruined.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Good Morning Ulster Mr Smith added: “In Scotland they suspended using this material, vaginal mesh, until they’ve sorted it out.

“In Northern Ireland we have an audit. In England we’re still waiting, after what seems to me to be a ridiculous amount of time, more than two years, for a report to come out,” he said.

In an open letter to the Government Sling The Mesh campaigners wrote to Mr Hunt saying: “There are no safeguards in place for women in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

“This is morally wrong. We demand that this imbalance is redressed so the whole of the UK falls in line with Scotland.

The call for a UK wide suspension comes hot on the heels of a newsletter by the British Society of Urogynaecologists (BSUG) from two months ago which said there was a: “Lack of research regards outcome data.

“If all members were to use the database then there would be a very large cohort that could inform practice moving forward.”

They also identify: “Poor coding or lack of appropriate codes makes data collection and analysis difficult.”

The newsletter says that mesh for: “Prolapse should not be used in primary treatment and its use should be undertaken only after a multi discipline treatment (MDT) discussion.”

However, Sling The Mesh campaign is aware of women still being offered prolapse mesh as standard who have not been through the team approach.

Eight years ago, in 2009, an archived BSUG newsletter said: “There has been considerable discussion regarding industry-sponsored pelvic floor surgery courses held at the college.

“The concern was the lack of evidence-base and possible promotion of one particular mesh for prolapse surgery.

“We felt the recommendations might have been unreliable.

”There had been a proposal that BSUG audits the outcomes of their products on our database as industry/commercial trials are viewed by some with ‘suspicion’.

“The companies feel it would be more transparent if BSUG audited the outcomes.”

The newsletter goes on to say that they suspect NICE recommendations for mesh use “may not be followed in all Trusts.”

Those guidelines include ensuring patients are aware of the uncertain, long-term efficacy and safety, have been given written information about risks and that all mesh procedures are audited and regularly reviewed.

The newsletter says: “It is essential the guidelines are followed and we protect ourselves against potential litigation for failure to follow national guidelines.”

• The MHRA continue to say mesh risk is one to three per cent and the benefits outweigh the risk. Their figure is based on a study called the York Report from 2012.

• Scottish surgeon Wael Agur says mesh risk is more like 15 per cent - one in seven women suffering.

• A report by Linda Brubaker et al suggest risk could be as high as 42 per cent.

• A report by Serati et al suggest risk is 30 to 40 per cent.

• A report by Blavais et al shows risk is 15 per cent and the mesh can degrade.

• Scroll to 2:16 for the BBC Radio interview with Owen Smith.