New NHS mesh centres cannot guarantee surgeons are competent enough to remove mesh implants

Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists with MP Jackie Doyle P

Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists with MP Jackie Doyle Price. RCOG have announced a WomensHealth Taskforce to improve the health outcomes of girls and women across three key stages in life. Campaigners say they are ignoring the pleas of women to set up properly trained surgeons in specialist centres across the UK to deal with mesh complications. - Credit: Archant

Women suffering mesh complications are being urged to refer themselves to new NHS treatment centres - but in a bitter twist, nobody can guarantee they are competent.

A total of 25 centres have been set up across the UK to deal with hundreds of women suffering pain, loss of sex life and infections.

However, the same surgeon society calling for women to seek help, admits that being on the special list “does not endorse competency”.

All it means is they comply with “correct personnel and agreement to correct processes.”

Campaigners say it is a harsh blow to women.

Jackie Harvey, of Sling The Mesh Northern Ireland, said: “If they cannot guarantee competency then what is the point? Mesh removal is not a walk in the park, it is a highly skilled and high risk procedure.

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“You cannot announce specialist centres then quietly add they might not be any good. This pays lip service to women who have been left to suffer by surgeons, who deny their pain is anything to do with their mesh implant.

“We know of so-called specialist centres that continue to deny mesh is a problem, others where they say they cannot help and simply refer women on. This is not good enough.”

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Surgeons in Northern Ireland in particular, insist they have transferable skills to automatically perform mesh removals, Jackie added.

“You can’t just have a go. We need accredited mesh removal programmes so women trust that these surgeons know what they are doing.”

The burden to the NHS of mesh injured women is becoming increasingly apparent after surgeon Suzy Elneil at UCLH in London was forced to close her doors to new referrals, quoting waiting times of up to 18 months.

Three three other removal surgeons women trust - Hashim Hashim in Bristol, Karen Ward in Manchester and Natalia Price in Oxford - have waiting lists of more than a year.

A spokesman for RCOG said: “It is absolutely vital that women with mesh-related complications receive prompt and comprehensive support and care from a multi-disciplinary team of professionals in a specialist unit.

“Women can either self-refer or be referred by their GP to any one of the specialist centres across the country identified by the British Society of Urogynaecology based on compliance with set criteria.

“NHS England is currently producing a specification for mesh removal centres which will be commissioned to provide care for women with mesh complications through a network.

“RCOG remains committed to ensuring the highest standards of training and care among obstetricians and gynaecologists (O&Gs). Consultants who work in specialist units must have the necessary skills required to operate in the affected areas of women with mesh related complications.

“RCOG provides the GMC approved curriculum for sub speciality training in urogynaecology which addresses mesh complications.

“The RCOG continues to work with key partners to meet the conditions set out by the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review to ensure the safety of treatments – including mesh – for women with stress urinary incontinence and vaginal prolapse.”

• Follow this link to find out where the NHS specialist centres are located.

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