Damning Government audit shows the scale of women suffering in the mesh implant disaster

MP Owen Smith, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group into surgical mesh, says every other wo

MP Owen Smith, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group into surgical mesh, says every other woman given mesh needs treatment for complications - Credit: Archant

Thousands of women given pelvic mesh implants seek further treatment for complications, according to a Government audit out today.

Jackie Harvey of Sling The Mesh Northern Ireland

Jackie Harvey of Sling The Mesh Northern Ireland - Credit: Archant

Owen Smith MP, chairman of the all party parliamentary group on surgical mesh, said the audit shows: “The campaign against mesh has been totally justified in our claim that large numbers of women have been damaged by mesh.

“Government has previously repeatedly claimed that mesh was ‘safe’ and just one to three per cent of women suffer serious complications after surgery,” he said.

However their own statistics vastly under estimated the problem, he said.

Thousands of outpatient appointments show women treated with mesh subsequently need treatment for trauma or orthopaedic problems, gynaecological complications or pain.

Karen Preater of Welsh Mesh Survivors when she was in London to lobby MPs at a mesh rally.

Karen Preater of Welsh Mesh Survivors when she was in London to lobby MPs at a mesh rally. - Credit: Archant

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Owen said: “The data shows the number of operations using mesh has almost halved over the last decade, illustrating that doctors and patients have themselves decided to stop using mesh.

“This is precisely the opposite effect you would expect to see with a new innovative and effective treatment, the use of which would normally rise as its value was proved in clinical usage.

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“Mesh is proving itself unsafe and ineffective in many women and the doctors are therefore stopping using it. That, in itself, shows the Government, NICE and the MHRA have been wrong to repeatedly defend the use of mesh.

“NICE should now fast-rack its review of the mesh, not due until 2019, while the NHS should suspend use of mesh until the results of that review are known.”

Sharon Hodgson MP said: “The Government now needs to suspend the use of surgical mesh and tape for all procedures to ensure that no more patients are harmed, make clear how many women have been injured, and investigate why so many patients were treated with these harmful products for so long.”

Sling the Mesh, launched by our newspaper, says despite the audit’s high figures, buried deep within a 50-page document, it still misses out thousands of women suffering as it does not include information from private hospitals or women in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

It misses off thousands of women just going to doctors for medication and does not take into account women who had mesh operations before 2008.

A spokesman for Sling The Mesh, with almost 6,000 members, said: “The report shows even eight years after mesh insertion it is still causing problems.

“The high figures are shocking and this is without any information on the devastating social and psychological impact on women.

“Our survey shows a third of women in our group have given up work and a fifth reduced their hours due to disability or pain and 54 per cent suffer ongoing urinary infections.”

Jackie Harvey, Of Sling The Mesh Northern Ireland, said: “If the Government has ordered a review, they should be releasing all UK figures at once.

“Problem is they have no idea how many women have been affected. No surgeon has ever reported mesh complications in Northern Ireland yet I have almost 500 women on my group.”

Karen Preater, admin of Welsh Mesh Survivors, said: “The audit is not robust enough to accurately show the scale of the mesh disaster, by cherry picking caveats they are effectively swaying the outcome.”

The audit misses off women who had a rectal prolapse and were given an operation called ventral mesh rectopexy as this operation does not have an official code where surgeons can log outcomes. The lead surgeon who trained medics across the UK in this procedure is the subject of an NHS and BBC investigation.

Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said of the audit: “These experimental statistics aim to provide the NHS with a clearer national picture on the use of meshes and tapes to treat urogynaecological prolapse or stress urinary incontinence.

“Due to the importance of this issue, I have asked the chief medical officer, professor Dame Sally Davies, to seek the views of relevant NHS bodies, expert surgical societies, and patient groups on the implications of the statistics, and report back to me within a month.”

A spokesman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists said: ‘More evidence is emerging illustrating how mesh implants are negatively affecting the quality of life for many women.

‘Women should routinely be offered physiotherapy before, and as a possible alternative to surgery. However, due to a shortage of women’s pelvic health physiotherapists, access is inconsistent and varied across the country.

‘This must be improved, along with raising awareness among other health professionals as to the benefits of specialist physiotherapy.

‘We really need to do more to prevent these problems from developing in the first place.”

• You can read the Mesh Audit here

• A study of hospital data by an independent statistician at Newcastle University, in September 2017, said the risk of suffering complications from the most commonly used mesh sling for incontinence was at least 9.8 per cent. Read the Keltie et al study here.

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