Northern Ireland

Vaginal mesh implant patients meet MPs

Doctor operating in theatre
Image caption The Scottish parliament put a moratorium on implants in 2014

Women across the UK who have said they have been left physically and mentally scarred after having vaginal mesh implants have taken their campaign to ban the procedure to Westminster.

Around 60 women met a group of MPs about the issue.

The women, including many from Northern Ireland, had mesh or tape implants - devices used to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

These conditions can be common after childbirth.

'Chronic pain'

Jackie Harvey, who is from Banbridge in County Down, had the implants inserted 12 years ago and suffered many problems.

She told BBC Good Morning Ulster that Tuesday's meeting would hopefully put pressure on politicians to debate the issue in parliament and implement a ban on the procedure.

Image caption A number of women raised the issue in Westminster on Tuesday

"I was fine for a short time after I got the implant but I went on to develop chronic pain in the pelvic area, hips, groin and thighs.

"I got x-rays and saw a rheumatologist but at no stage did anyone make a connection, and I didn't make a connection either."

Image caption The mesh is made of polypropolene which is a type of plastic - surgeons routinely use it in hernia repair, for example

Ms Harvey said she only realised the implant could have been causing her pain after reading an online article about a woman who had similar symptoms and had also had a mesh implant inserted.

"I had the implant removed in March this year in England.

"Most of the problems have disappeared, but the pain is still there - however I feel much better than I was before."

She now runs an online forum to support those affected and of its 173 members, about 150 are understood to be from Northern Ireland.

'Health scandal'

The Scottish parliament put a moratorium on implants in 2014.

However, operations have begun again in Scotland with improved safeguards.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption The women had mesh or tape implants - devices used to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence

The former chair of the Northern Ireland Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Robin Ashe said: "The use of mesh for the management of urinal incontinence is regarded as a safe and effective procedure in the right circumstances and in the right hands.

"As time has progressed, we have realised that one needs to be very careful about the circumstances under which these devices are placed.

"Our complication rates for the devices in the management of urinal incontinence... are very low in the short and medium term.

"What might be coming about now, is over a long period of time, we are recognising more complications and that requires to be evaluated further," said Dr Ashe.

Earlier this month, the Shadow Secretary of State, Owen Smith, unsuccessfully bid for a debate on vaginal mesh implants to be held in the house of commons.

He helped organise Tuesday's meeting.

He said: "This is a really big issue and it isn't going to go away.

"I hope today's meetings will make sure there is a much greater profile of what I think is a serious health scandal.

"As soon as parliament comes back over summer, I will be resubmitting my bid for a debate."

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