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

PUBLISHED: 14:48 29 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:05 29 January 2016

Reporter Kath Sansom of Slling The Mesh  Picture: HELEN DRAKE

Reporter Kath Sansom of Slling The Mesh Picture: HELEN DRAKE


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.

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.

Our girl from the Fens wakes up Westminster

When our reporter Kath Sansom launched a women’s health campaign about an NHS operation with life-altering risks little did she know how support for it would snowball.

After just eight months the campaign has reached Parliament and won the backing of 20 MPs.

Armed with dossiers of evidence, testimonies from women affected and a fervour borne from her own adversity, she took her campaign to the corridors of power.

At a meeting in the House of Commons, hosted by NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay, she told why changes are necessary.

Kath had good reason to combine her journalistic prowess with a campaign for justice – she had a TVT mesh sling procedure that went horribly wrong and caused her immense pain.

Her subsequent campaign – much of it conducted in long hours at night and at weekends has been a revelation.

It has put her in touch with women and clinicians from around the world, all fighting for those in power to take notice of the dangers of a mesh sling used in an operation given to fix incontinence, often suffered after childbirth.

Sling The Mesh began as a small idea with the backing and blessing of The Cambs Times but now one MP has called it the “worst medical issue he has seen.”

Kath’s campaign was launched in June 2015 - what she wasn’t prepared for was quite how big it would become.

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.

“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.”

Kath Sansom pictured on Sky News.Kath Sansom pictured on Sky News.

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.


Sling the MeshFacebook support group

Scottish campaigners fought to get mesh suspended in June 2014 pending the outcome of a mesh report Scottish campaigners

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