MP Owen Smith, Welsh shadow work and pensions secretary: ‘In six years this is the worst medical issue I have come across’

Reporter Kath Sansom of Slling The Mesh Picture: HELEN DRAKE

Reporter Kath Sansom of Slling The Mesh Picture: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant

Concerns surrounding a women’s operation reached Parliament when a meeting heard about lives ruined in surgery that was supposed to be a simple fix for an embarrassing problem.

Kath Sansom pictured on Sky News.

Kath Sansom pictured on Sky News. - Credit: Archant

Real life stories of how women have gone from healthy and active to suffering terrible pain with some walking on sticks or in wheelchairs were outlined in the meeting, called to hear the devastating effects when a mesh sling operation goes wrong.

MP Owen Smith, Welsh shadow work and pensions secretary, who backs the campaign after hearing about a woman living locally to him suffering from the mesh operation, said: “In six years this is the worst medical issue I have come across.

“To hear of my constituent’s suffering and terrible pain because of an operation that was supposed to help is awful.”

Professor Keith Willett, director of acute episodes of care for the NHS, was among those handed dossiers of evidence giving accounts of how the mesh can erode, cut into organs, cause lifelong health problems like fibromyalgia or mean women lose their sex lives.

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay said: “This is not about party politics this is about getting the right care for women.

“Kath deserves huge credit for the work she has done to raise awareness of the risks involved when vaginal mesh implants go wrong, and following my meeting with Professor Willet in the summer at the House of Commons it was great this time to have the benefit of Kath’s input and first hand experience.

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“A number of actions were identified to better raise awareness, make it easier for women to report problems and improve the data collection of these reports.

“There is still much more to do to ensure women are aware of the risks of these implants, but is welcome that the NHS now recognises the seriousness of the problem and that it is taking steps to improve surgical procedures and patient information.”

Ten action points were outlined as part of a pledge to look at problems with the operation which inserts mesh as a permanent device.

A December 2015 study carried out by four Canadian clinicians shows that patients of less experienced surgeons have a 37 per cent higher risk of ing mesh complications and a study in 2013 into mesh used for pelvic organ prolapse repair was stopped early due to a 15.6 per cent complication rate.

But Scottish campaigner Olive McIlroy said: “It is not about the numbers, it is about the seriousness of complications when things go wrong, even for one patient.”

Surgeon Christine Landon writing in a medical journal The Expert Witness, said there were a number of factors leading to controversies around mesh implants and the complications some women have suffered.

“These seem to centre not only around the patient selection and possible lack of surgical experience, or inadequate training leading to poor technique and sub optimal surgical standards for some women, but also the inherent properties of plastic mesh and the human tissue response to it in some patients.

“Surgeons may be taking on procedures that appear to be straightforward and that are marketed to them and presented in handy kit form but that are in reality technically challenging to get absolutely right.”

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, minister for women and equalities, said: “The impact of mesh surgery to treat stress urinary incontinence has caused serious unintended medical problems for many women throughout the UK.

“That is why I am working alongside other MPs to see how we can tackle this complex issue and ensure that women who have suffered from complications associated with mesh surgery are listened to and supported.”

The meeting came shortly before news that prescription nerve blocker drugs gabapentin and pregabalin, used by many mesh injured women to control pain, could soon be more tightly regulated.

Government advisors called for them to become Class C, which would mean they cannot be repeat dispensed and prescriptions will only be valid for one month.


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