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Scotland suspends the use of vaginal mesh implants in NHS Scotland

Medical device lawyer calls on Department of Health to examine safety of surgical mesh more closely

Vaginal mesh implants have caused some women major health problems

17 June 2014

Alex Neil MSP, the Scottish Health Secretary, today announced that he will be asking the NHS Boards in Scotland to suspend the vaginal mesh implants, whilst an independent review into the safety of their use is underway.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway stopped using vaginal mesh devices last year and soon all other health boards will be forced to follow suit.

Leigh Day’s product liability team has previously voiced concern about the use of vaginal mesh devices to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse and have called on the UK Department of Health to take the issue as seriously as the Scottish Parliament has done.

The team were particularly concerned following the announcement by Johnson & Johnson to remove four such products from the market, and the FDA increase in risk classification for surgical mesh.

This morning’s statement follows an investigation into complaints by The Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign group.

Members of the group have reported problems such as abdominal pain, infections and erosion following implantation of vaginal mesh for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Olive McIlroy and Elaine Holmes gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament two weeks ago about their own and fellow patients’ experiences of “life-changing side effects” following implantation of these devices. 

Amongst other suggestions which have also been taken up, they called for the devices to be suspended in lieu of an independent inquiry. 

Scotland has been way ahead of England in investigating these complaints.  The Scottish Parliament will be working with the UK Department of Health to create a database of mesh implants because it appears from the evidence that lack of data is quite a significant drawback to investigating these complaints properly.

The Scottish Government will also consider taking evidence from the US lawyers who have achieved settlements with some of the manufacturers of these products.

In the UK some MPs have signed an early day motion calling for comprehensive research to be carried out into the issue, to consider suspending the use of the mesh and to introduce mandatory reporting of all adverse incidents and set up a UK mesh implant register.

Jill Paterson, who heads up the vaginal mesh investigation team, thinks the UK Department of Health needs to go further:

“The women from The Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign group have been tirelessly campaigning on behalf of hundreds of women who have suffered devastating problems following implantation of vaginal mesh.

“They deserve huge credit for having the perseverance and bravery to give very personal and difficult evidence to the Scottish Parliament, which has resulted in the suspension of the use of these concerning devices.

“We continue to hope that here in England, the UK Department of Health will start to take these issues more seriously and follow in the footsteps of the Scottish Parliament in suspending the use of these devices pending a full and proper investigation.

“We have heard stories from too many women who have suffered horrendous injuries following implantation of these products.”

Leigh Day’s product liability department has a specialist team looking into vaginal mesh claims.  The team have been contacted by many women who have suffered devastating injuries following implantation of vaginal mesh, including chronic pain, repeated urinary tract infections and erosion of the mesh into the bladder and urethra, leading to multiple revision surgeries to attempt to remove the mesh.

As Alex Neil said in his statement today, “No woman should have to go through the hell these women have been through."

If you have been implanted with vaginal mesh and have suffered problems subsequently, please contact the specialist team at Leigh Day on 020 7650 1219  for a free and confidential discussion about your potential claim.

The statement and question and answer session in the Scottish Parliament from this morning can be watched online.

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