Mesh implants investigation suffered from ‘Systematic failures’

Neil Findlay MSP and Elaine Holmes, who has had a mesh implant, give evidence at the inquiry. Picture: Scott Louden
Neil Findlay MSP and Elaine Holmes, who has had a mesh implant, give evidence at the inquiry. Picture: Scott Louden
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The official investigation into the use of mesh implants in Scotland was so badly executed that it left several members of the panel “traumatised”, an independent review has found.

It concluded that the original inquiry into the issue was characterised by “systematic failures”, including in-fighting among its members and a failure to declare conflicts of interest.

It is now time for the SNP government to completely ditch this discredited review

Neil Findlay MSP

An investigation into what went wrong with the review was ordered by ministers after three of its members resigned before it concluded, describing its report as a “whitewash”.

The original review was set up in 2014 to investigate the use of transvaginal mesh implants, after dozens of women told MSPs that the surgery had ruined their lives and left them in chronic pain.

The implants were linked to the death of a 75-year-old woman earlier this year, prompting the Health Secretary to call a halt to their use in Scotland’s NHS last month.

The new investigation, led by Professor Alison Britton of Glasgow Caledonian University, said the original review had been “ill-conceived, thoughtlessly structured and poorly executed”.

“Negative factors including irreconcilable differences of opinion of review members [and a] lack of agreement on the interpretation of evidence,” it added.

Her review also said several members of the initial inquiry had failed to declare potential conflicts of interest, with some being paid to conduct research in the area they were investigating.

It added that most members were “totally unprepared” for the level of public and political scrutiny they received, with one recalling: “It was terrible, terrible, terrible”.

Some said they felt “traumatised” when the report was finally published, while others said they wished they had never taken part and would never contribute to a similar exercise again.

Prof Britton said that while she was satisfied that nobody involved in the original review had acted in “bad faith”, it had ultimately failed due to a lack of oversight and proper guidance.

Her report made 46 recommendations to ministers.

Earlier this week, Nicola Sturgeon issued a formal apology on behalf of the Scottish Government to the thousands of women across Scotland who suffered as a result of having mesh implants.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “This report that reveals the SNP’s original mesh review was a complete white wash.

“It is now time for the SNP government to completely ditch this discredited review and immediately pledge to deliver a thorough and truly independent inquiry.”

Scottish Conservative 
interim leader Jackson Carlaw said there were “very serious lessons to be learned” for the Scottish Government.

“The recommendations of Professor Britton must be accepted in full,” he added.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We will now carefully consider all of her recommendations in relation to the establishment and operation of future reviews.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com