Women injured by mesh implants are furious at an NHS report that rejects calls for a ban

MP Owen Smith

MP Owen Smith - Credit: Archant

A three year report into surgical mesh, that treats problems often caused by childbirth, has been slammed by an MP and branded a whitewash by women across the UK.

Gordon Foster and Amy Cuffley talk to Neale Wade Academy students

Gordon Foster and Amy Cuffley talk to Neale Wade Academy students - Credit: Archant

The English Mesh report took three years to conclude that more reporting of mesh complications is needed and women and GPs need better information about risks of mesh - that is being labelled the biggest health scandal of our time.

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament - Credit: Archant

MP Owen Smith, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, who this month set up an All Party Parliamentary Group into mesh, said: “Mesh-injured women will be deeply disappointed by the outcomes of the final NHS England review, which seems to have made little progress since its interim report came out over a year ago.

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament - Credit: Archant

“This was an opportunity for the NHS to take a lead and recommend a pause in the use of mesh until we know precisely how many women have been adversely affected by the product.

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament. Carolyn Churchill's MP is Owen Smith who is leading the debate.

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament. Carolyn Churchill's MP is Owen Smith who is leading the debate. - Credit: Archant

“Instead, they appear content to allow mesh to be widely used despite growing, international concerns about its potential ill effects.

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament calling for a UK wide ban on mesh

Sling The Mesh goes to Parliament calling for a UK wide ban on mesh - Credit: Archant

“The only people pleased with this report will be the medical device companies who marketed mesh so diligently and who now fear mass litigation.

“Many companies have already taken their mesh products off the market, that alone should tell us something is not right with these devices.”

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Seven patient representatives were not invited to meetings for the last 18 months of the review and four of them resigned saying they were not listened to during the review.

A leading mesh removal surgeon was also not invited to any mesh meetings for the last 18 months.

Yet Professor Keith Willett, chairman of the review, said: “it is right and proper for those who deliver, lead and regulate health care to listen to patients concerns and work with all parties to resolve them.

“Our collective vision is that future patients recognise they have been part of a shared decision making process experience fewer complications and where complications do occur they are recognised and treated promptly.”

Jill Lott, a patient rep who resigned, said: “Much of what we said fell on deaf ears. The report has been a protracted waste of time and money.”

Teresa Hughes, who ran one of the UK’s first mesh support group, Meshies United, said: “We were treated disgustingly, no communication for months. The report says it is still using a database funded by mesh companies. Surgeons are still not recording adverse incidents. We need a National Register.”

Kath Pease, who runs TVT Info, resigned because: “I could see they were not interested in examining safety of these devices.”

Patient rep Ingrid Hardacre, said: “I was not listened to and all information I brought to the table was not accepted. This report has changed nothing, it is still pro mesh and patients will continued to be harmed by dangerous, blind mesh procedures.”

Pelvic mesh has been used in the NHS for 20 years yet across the globe it is causing concern for causing major life changing injuries for women.

Latest NHS England hospital figures show at least one in 11 women have complications - but in reality that figure will be higher as it only records the numbers of women who go into hospital to have a procedure such as mesh removal.

Kath Sansom, of campaign group Sling The Mesh, said: “They might as well park an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff and wait for women to fall in - they should have looked at product safety, not at ways to fix women once things have gone wrong.

“How can a major study of mesh not look at mesh safety. It is a whitewash. The NHS paid lip service to patient reps.

“Mesh implants are the only operation done blind, using large hooks to put in plastic that can then shrink, twist or degrade inside the body. “But nobody has explored that. When mesh goes wrong it is a personal tragedy for the woman and her family.

“Until there is a national register, nobody has a clue of how great this scandal is.”

David Golten, partner and head of litigation at law firm Wedlake Bell, leading a group legal action for Sling The Mesh, said: “The suffering of women affected by surgical mesh implants is immense.

“They live not only with life-changing pain, but they also have to accept they will never again be the people they once were.

“The emotional impact of that for them and their families is appalling, and all for an operation that was supposed to improve their quality of life.”

Surgeon Wael Agur said: “If we cannot obtain accurate figures on the true risks in real life, we cannot continue offering these procedures in the future.”

Jemima Williams of Welsh Mesh Survivors support group said: “This is the tip of a huge global iceberg that needs to be addressed now. Mesh should be suspended until an investigation is made into the adverse effects.”

Jackie Harvey of Northern Irish mesh support group, said: “Over 200 mesh-injured women in Northern Ireland have joined the local support group within the past four weeks.

“Heartbreaking stories of going to seek help with pain and infection only for many of them to be fobbed off or told they are the only one.” Scottish Mesh Survivors support group said: “Patients should not have had to campaign for years to highlight the suffering mesh implants have caused and to get basic safety measures in place. It is no longer acceptable for surgeons to assume that if a device has made it onto an NHS shelf it is safe.

“We have been let down badly by pro-mesh health professionals who cannot fix us when serious complications occur, and we have been let down by the MHRA who regurgitates the claim that the ‘benefit of mesh outweighs the risk’ without having necessary data to back up this up.

“We need the Government to step up to the mark and take responsibility for what is arguably the biggest health scandal ever and stop these procedures now.”

Professor Keith Willett, Medical Director for Acute Care at NHS England, who chaired the programme said: “We are now providing more consistent information to women and their clinicians, better care and support in the way of 18 self-declared centres with the specialist experience and skills to assess women suffering from distressing complications and making improvements to data collection which will in turn lead to greater evidence on the safety and efficiency of devices.

“I am reassured that this momentum will continue due to the commitment from NICE to update and develop further guidance related to the care of women with SUI and POP. ”

John Wilkinson, Director of Devices at MHRA, said: “Patient safety is our highest priority and we sympathise with women who have suffered complications after surgery.”

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