Scotland politics

Mesh implants continue despite call to stop using them, MSPs hear

Woman in pain Image copyright Spl
Image caption Some women have suffered pain and discomfort following the vaginal operation

MSPs have expressed disappointment that mesh implant operations continue to be carried out by Scotland's NHS despite a ministerial call to suspend them.

In June last year the then Scottish health secretary, Alex Neil, urged the 14 health boards to stop the procedures while a review was carried out.

Some women with the implants, which are used to ease incontinence, have suffered painful complications.

Members of the petitions committee now want a chamber debate on the matter.

They also want the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is carrying out an investigation into the use of mesh implants, to appear before MSPs.

In addition, the committee is keen for the new health secretary to answer its questions.

'Dramatic obstacle'

Petitions committee member, Jackson Carlow, said that while he had been "enormously encouraged" by Mr Neil's call to stop use of the implants he was "disturbed" that some health boards had not halted the procedure.

He said he was also worried that the MHRA was set to recommend that the benefits of the operation outweighed the risk.

Mr Carlow said: "They have come to that conclusion despite the fact there is evidence of under reporting and there are concerns that the MHRA is not aware of all women who have experienced problems.

"This seems to me to be potentially quite a dramatic obstacle to what many of us thought was progress."

He added that what was seen by the committee as "tremendous progress" could be "going into reverse".

The MHRA had said its research showed that while a small number of women had experienced distressing effects, the benefits of the tapes and meshes "outweighed the risks" and could help in dealing with upsetting conditions such as urinary stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

EXPLAINER - Mesh implants

Image copyright Eyewire

Neil Findlay, who was at the committee along with several women who have had the implants, said: "Since the cabinet secretary announced his alleged suspension of mesh we know that this is still being fitted inside the bodies of women in Scotland, but it is now called a clinical trial.

"Since then we have also witnessed multi-million pound compensation claims being paid out to several people, with thousands more sitting in the pipeline."

Mr Neil called for a review of the mesh implant procedure - which is carried out on about 1,850 women each year in Scotland - after the petitions committee heard moving evidence from members of the Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign.

On Tuesday the committee was due to hear from Adam Slater, a New Jersey trial lawyer who helped to secure a multi-million dollar compensation deal for mesh users.

However, he was unable to give evidence via video conference due to the bad weather in New York.

The committee confirmed that his appearance would be rescheduled.

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