Sling the Mesh - the campaign begun by our reporter Kath Sansom - part of Government review ordered today by Prime Minister Theresa May
PUBLISHED: 10:26 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:26 22 February 2018
The Prime Minister has ordered a review into three women’s health disasters – including vaginal mesh implants – the campaign begun three years ago by Cambs Times journalist Kath Sansom.
Ms Sansom was glued to the internet at Prime Minister’s Question Time today after being alerted to the likely of an imminent and major announcement by Theresa May.
The PM didn’t fail her.
Mrs May said she was ordering a review not only into vaginal mesh – and what has gone horribly wrong- but the review would also consider the pregnancy drug Priomodos and Valproate.
Her statement comes amid an admission that the regulation system has failed patients.
Ms Sansom has been a persistent opponent of Government inaction on mesh – her Facebook group has grown to more than 5,600 members and she has been a frequent lobbyist at the House of Commons and House of Lords whenever the issue has been raised.
Only two weeks ago around 50 members of the group, led by Ms Sansom, travelled from across Britain to join a protest outside the House of Lords.
They called on the Government to hear their voice with a slogan: ‘100 years of votes for women, now hear our voice, Sling the Mesh’.
Today’s announcement marks a significant development in the ‘Sling the Mesh’ campaign but Ms Sansom believes the fight will, and must, continue.
“Mesh implants can shrink, twist and degrade slicing into internal tissues and organs, causing agonising pain,” she said.
Of the other issues forming part of the Government review, she said Primodos was given to 1.5 million pregnant women from the 1950s and was withdrawn form the market in 1978. It caused birth defects.
Valproate was given for epilepsy or for women suffering bi-polar disorder. Campaigners say 20,000 children now suffer disabilities which can then be passed on in the next generation.”
Grouping together the common theme of the suffering caused to so many people, the Prime Minister said “There are very powerful stories. There’s an issue with our regulation in the health care system.
“We need to do better. I was very struck by the stories I have heard.”
Shortly after PMQs, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted: “There are three areas of potential medical error.”
“Serious concerns have been raised by patients and their families about vaginal mesh linked to crippling and ongoing pain.
“I pay tribute particularly to campaigners for their resolute determination to campaign on behalf of others.”
He said that patients and families “have spent too long not being listened to”.
Mr Hunt said that the stress and frustration felt by campaign groups on these issues had often “added insult to injury” as he pledged to come up with a quicker and more balanced system.
“We must acknowledge that the response to these issues from those in positions of authority has not always been good enough,” he said.
“Sometimes the reaction has felt overly focused on defending the status quo rather than addressing the needs of patients, and as a result patients and their families have spent too long feeling that they were not being listened to, making the agony of a complex medical situation even worse.”
The Health Secretary said that Conservative peer Baroness Cumberlege would lead the review.
He also announced a number of measures in relation to Primodos, sodium valproate and vaginal mesh, though ruled out a blanket ban on vaginal mesh specifically
Ms Sansom’s campaign group later released a statement thanking the Prime Minister for her intervention, pointing out that “every woman who has had a mesh implant is a ticking time bomb.
“Mesh implants can shrink or twist years later, slicing into internal tissues, nerves and organs. So if a woman has had a good outcome now there is no guarantee she will be good for her lifetime.
“We are delighted that at last a review is to be carried out but also deeply saddened that so many women’s and families lives have been shattered by medical devices and drugs that were never tested on humans before being released en masse to women globally.
“We were the human guinea pigs. These are three huge women’s health disasters. The people who benefited most were the share holders and big CEOs.
“It is wrong that women have had to fight for years to get their voices heard, often being dismissed as mad, hysterical or a minority suffering.
“Had men been hurt by drugs or implants on this scale there would be an outcry. Instead we have been left to suffer in silence.
“Every woman affected by Primodos, Valproate or mesh implants has suffered personal tragedies that can never be compensated for.”
Baroness Julia Cumberlege will lead to the review, announced by Mrs May.
She said: ‘I look forward to undertaking this tremendously important review and in particular to working with patients to ensure that our health system learns from those it may have failed.
‘It’s essential that voices aren’t just listened to, but properly heard, and that whenever appropriate, the system promptly learns lessons and makes changes.’
MP Emma Hardy called for more support for victims, she asked for the Government to look into the way devices get on to the market and added it is not just about surgeon training.
She said: “It’s the product itself that is faulty.”
MP for NE Cambs Steve Barclay, also a health minister, said: “There was an important step forward in the campaign to address the concerns of patients who have suffered from vaginal mesh implants, with a statement today in the House of Commons from the Secretary of State for Health.
“It is welcome that these issues are now receiving such national attention and being subject to detailed review. I will continue to flag the concerns of patients specifically within the Department of Health.”