Our journalist Kath Sansom takes her ‘sling the mesh’ campaign to the heart of Government
PUBLISHED: 15:08 18 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:08 18 October 2017
Campaigning Cambs Times journalist Kath Sansom today took her ‘sling the mesh’ campaign to the heart of Government.
MPs from across the country heard evidence of women left in excruciating and debilitating pain as a result of mesh surgery.
Women clamoured to give evidence to MPs explaining how they had been left in chronic pain after being given mesh implants to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon said he had received many emails from Northern Ireland from people outlining their “horrific experiences” following mesh surgery.
And MP Sarah Woollaston, chairman of the health committee, claimed some women had been unaware that mesh devices had been inserted and others claimed they had not been informed of the risks or given their consent.
Ms Sansom set up Sling The Mesh two years ago with 10 members – there are now 3,500.
She told a lobby of supporters, MPs and medical experts at the Commons that “health minister Jackie Doyle Price says there is not enough evidence to support a mesh suspension.
“The evidence is there. The NHS chooses to ignore it. The latest studies show prolapsed mesh risk is 12 per cent. Incontinence mesh risk at least 10 per cent and that is ONLY women going into hospital – many more suffer in silence or go to their doctor for pain medication and antibiotics. I believe you can double that figure to 20 per cent”
She said: “Women’s pelvic mesh has been used for 20 years. The last 15 of those it’s been aggressively marketed. The result is a nation of young surgeons under 40 who can’t do old fashioned surgeries that take up to four hours, require more skill and a hospital stay of three nights. Mesh, by comparison, takes 20 minutes as a day case.
“If women experience complications it destroys their quality of life. Nobody goes back to what they were. Mesh removals are risky. Mesh complications are costly to the NHS. This is not the cheap, quick fix dream. It is the stuff of nightmares.
“The surgeon societies are terrified of a mesh suspension as they fear many consultants will not be able to offer an alternative. But that is not a reason to keep doing it.”
Ms Sansom said: “Problems can cut in up to 18 years later. Others suffer instantly.”
She gave some case interests including that of Paula who was among the first women to have mesh when she had it inserted in Belfast in 1999.
On waking she was unable to go to the toilet. Her nerve endings were permanently damaged. Multiple surgeries followed. She was given a second mesh nine years later. The plastic mesh sliced into her tissues so badly she had to have her bladder removed in 2012. She now has a permanent stoma. 18 yrs later the remaining pieces of mesh are eroding into her urethra and vaginal wall.
Ms Sansom also mentioned the case of Julie who has been a paramedic for 12 years. She had a mesh sling implanted in February. She hasn’t worked as a paramedic since. “She has only just gone back to work for the NHS in a desk job where she handles complaints to the ambulance service,” said Ms Sansom. “From the minute she woke the pain in her legs is excruciating. Her bladder was perforated by the hooks used to blindly insert the mesh. She has to self catheterise. Julie used to run 5K most days. Now it is a battle to get through the day.”
A third example was of a woman of 27 who joined her campaign group in the past few days.
“Due to birth defects she had always suffered problems and was implanted with one mesh implant at the age of 13 and another at 16.” said Ms Sansom.
“She was told it would change her life. It did. She has suffered ever since but ignored at every turn. She had no idea there were others suffering she saw a newspaper article on Monday.”
Ms Sansom told MPs: “I urge you to support a public inquiry and a mesh suspension. “Until then nobody has a clue of he real numbers of women suffering.”
Labour today announced the party’s backing for a public inquiry into the use of surgical mesh implants (Weds 18) following a two and a half year campaign by this newspaper.
The party are also calling for use of the products to be stopped in England immediately while the inquiry is undertaken.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, speaking ahead of today’s debate, said: “This is an ongoing public health scandal and the Government need to do much more to support those affected.
“The Government have failed to answer big questions about the extent of this public health scandal, including how many women have been affected and why a product with such terrible risks was allowed into the market in the first place.
“Labour is calling for a full inquiry to uncover the extent of the harm done by mesh implants so we can be sure that this never happens again.”
“Mesh implants have left women in permanent pain, unable to walk, and unable to work.
“Ministers have said NICE will publish updated guidance for these products but not until January 2018. Mesh implants should be taken off the market now until we know more about the threat they pose to women’s safety.”
The call comes as MPs prepare to discuss the impact of mesh implants in a debate called by Emma Hardy, MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, taking place in Westminster Hall at 9.30am today.
She said: “I’m delighted to have secured a debate on this very important issue. Since calling for this debate, my email inbox has been filling up with emails from men and women across the country telling me their horrific stories after having mesh implanted.
“I was first alerted to the issue of mesh complications after a constituent contacted me who had been suffering in silence for years.
“I hope that the government will take action and heed Labour’s call for a public inquiry into the use of mesh.”
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Surgical Mesh Implants, Owen Smith commented: “Mesh injury is one of the worst medical issues I’ve come across since becoming an MP.
“Since working with Sling the Mesh campaign, I have been contacted by countless women from right across the UK who have shared their heart breaking stories of their suffering following mesh surgery.
“The government must immediately review all mesh surgery and suspend the use of mesh until more is known about its risks.
“I’m pleased that Labour colleagues have listened to the concerns of mesh-injured women and are now supporting suspension of mesh and a public enquiry into its usage.
“We now need the Tory Government to similarly acknowledge the scale of the problem, and to act.”
Kath Sansom, who works for this newspaper and set up Sling The Mesh in 2015 after suffering pain from a mesh implant, said: “People are waking up to the global scandal that is surgical mesh implants and at last it is on the political agenda at Westminster.
“The latest studies from NHS figures show the risk of having to go the hospital for a mesh complication is at least 1 in 10 and that figure is low as many more suffer but only go back and forth to their GP.
““When mesh complications hit it decimates the life of not just a woman but that of her family too.
“All those suffering are reporting the same crippling pain, some register disabled and many who have lost marriages, jobs, friends, husbands - all with vastly reduced quality of life.
“I put out a plea for people with mesh implants to email Sling The Mesh for me to bring their stories to Parliament and within two days received 400 from around the world - all heart breaking personal tragedies of people whose lives have been changed beyond recognition - to have been hit by this scale of human suffering over one weekend was deeply upsetting
“One of those was a woman who is now 27 but was given one mesh at the age of 13 and another at 16 as she was assured this new miracle fix would change her life. It did - she has suffered ever since but been ignored at every turn.
“She only found out this week that she is part of a global scandal and is as shocked as we are that a girl so young was given this mesh surgery when she was still developing .
“It is time to say enough is enough, hold a public inquiry and suspend the use of pelvic mesh implants while this takes place.”