Mesh expert raises concerns over patient safety

The expert at the centre of a review group looking at the safety of mesh implants in Scotland has spoken about why he resigned.

Expert speaks out about mesh implants

Dr Wael Agur said he believed patient safety was being put at risk and mesh should only be used in exceptional circumstances due to the risk of "irreversible" damage.

The Scottish government said no evidence had been deleted or hidden from the review group's report.

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Transvaginal mesh implants are medical devices used by surgeons to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence in women, conditions that can commonly occur after childbirth.

Over the past 20 years, more than 100,000 women across the UK have had transvaginal mesh implants - including more than 20,000 in Scotland.

But some have suffered painful and debilitating complications.

There are more than 400 women currently taking legal action against Scottish health boards and manufacturers as a result of mesh implant surgery.

In 2014, former Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil called for the suspension of such procedures, and an independent review group was set up to look at safety issues.

Dr Agur, a consultant urogynecologist, was a member of the review group but said he was forced to step down earlier this year after an entire chapter of the final report was removed and put in the appendices.

It followed the resignation of two patient representatives on the group who claimed the report had been "watered down" and that it was ultimately "a whitewash".

At the time, Health Secretary Shona Robison said no evidence would be hidden in the group's final report.

Dr Agur said he reviewed the most up-to-date research in the UK and internationally and concluded that non-mesh surgical procedures were safer, but said that such conclusions were removed or changed.

He said: "It was so important that we got this right. Not just for women in Scotland but for women around the world. Scotland was the only country where an independent review was running to look at the benefits and risks of these procedures.

"I believe the report has left the door slightly open for some procedures to be performed and that should not have happened."

Dr Agur said he believed mesh use should be avoided in future in all but the rarest circumstances because of the risks of "acute" and "irreversible" damage.