Health chief: Mesh implant issues ‘not widespread’

Suky Mann suffered problems which led to the mesh operation. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Suky Mann suffered problems which led to the mesh operation. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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THE head of a health watchdog has said there is “no evidence” of widespread problems with controversial mesh implants, despite a Scottish Government ban.

Dr Neil McGuire of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was heckled by angry campaigners, many wheelchair-bound from mesh side-effects, as he told MSPs there are no plans to withdraw them from use.

Health boards in Scotland have continued to use the devices to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence, despite former health secretary Alex Neil calling for them to be banned.

Dr McGuire said: “If we had a higher level of reporting that showed that there were more complications than we are seeing then we’re always prepared to change our view.

“So if we had thousands and thousands of reports to say this was an issue, that wasn’t in the complication rate that was deemed acceptable by the clinical community, then we would change our stance.

“But we can’t act without information – and that information does not appear to be out there.”

Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Borders, Fife and Grampian are among the health board areas which still carry out procedures and have used the MHRA as the basis for this. This is despite former health secretary Alex Neil calling for a moratorium, while further work is carried out into the safety concerns.

Dr McGuire, a consultant in intensive care and anaesthesia, was asked if Mr Neil was being “irresponsible” in calling for the ban.

“I think that would be probably be a question I wouldn’t ­answer,” the clinician added.

Tory committee member Jackson Carlaw said: “I’ll take that to mean Yes.” The medic added that the Scottish Government has imposed the moratorium without any new evidence being provided.

But Elaine Holmes of the Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign group, who attended yesterday’s meeting, branded Dr McGuire “dismissive and evasive”.

She said: “We’ve been going through this for years. They say there’s a lack of evidence to support a mesh suspension or even issue a warning. What more evidence does he need?”

MSPs at Holyrood have been investigating the issue, following a number of harrowing examples of women suffering infections and bleeding following the surgery, and long-term side effects.

Campaigners say many are left with chronic pain, permanent disability and the need for wheelchairs and walking aids or even the loss of a kidney or ­bladder.

The Scottish Government’s review into the use of mesh ­implants will report in a couple of months.

CASE STUDY

Suky Mann once led an active life as a swimming instructor and keen skier. She is now largely wheelchair bound after suffering a mesh nightmare three years ago.

The 47-year-old lives in Gosport, Hampshire, and travelled with nine-year-old son Jakob to hear experts give evidence at Holyrood yesterday.

She suffered ongoing problems after giving birth in 2005 and eventually got a mesh implant eight years later.

Doctors told her at the time it would be a “simple, half-hour operation”.

She added: “I woke from surgery and was only able to move the toes in my left leg. I was in extreme pain.”

She can now only walk with crutches and suffers “24/7 pain” in her legs and bladder. Surgery to remove the mesh was attempted, but proved “too complicated” to extract it fully.

Ms Mann added: “This first started when my son was seven and it’s turned our lives about completely.

“We used to ski, kayak, cycle but he has to spend time with me on the sofa or bed. Our lives have just crumbled.”

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