Grieving family say Holyrood’s temporary ban on mesh operations isn’t enough

Ellen Baxter from Loanhead was the first person to have mesh repair listed as an underlying cause of death.
Ellen Baxter from Loanhead was the first person to have mesh repair listed as an underlying cause of death.

The use of transvaginal mesh implants has been immediately halted in NHS Scotland, the health secretary has announced.

The move comes after the Evening News revealed Eileen Baxter, from Loanhead, was the first person in Scotland to have mesh repair listed as an underlying cause of death.

In a statement in Holyrood, Jeane Freeman said an effective ban would be in place until the introduction of a new “restricted use protocol”.

This does not include other procedures such as transabdominal mesh which 75-year-old Eileen underwent for a pelvic organ prolapse but these will be subject to “high vigilance” procedures. There was mixed reaction to the news, with campaigners urging the health secretary to implement a total ban on the use of mesh products.

Mark Baxter, Eileen’s son, expressed concern at the decision, while opposition politicians welcomed the move. Mark said: “The underlying cause of my mum’s death was the mesh, that’s what cut through her bowel, that’s what caused the damage – this announcement doesn’t address that.

“My understanding is it’s the product that causes the damage, and it’s barbaric they’re using this material in the first place.”

Eileen, a great-grandmother married to 79-year-old Chic, had multiple organ failure listed as directly leading to her death after being admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh with internal bleeding, sickness and diarrhoea the week before her death on August 27.

Elaine Holmes and Olive McIlroy on behalf of the Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign said they were disappointed for the Baxter family and their hearts went out to them.

They said: “As a result of the story of Eileen’s death and mesh being an underlying cause, we believe that this has prompted the announcement.

“The fact is that abdominal mesh is not going to be included in this halt.

“When we took our petition to the parliament in 2014 there was only a small number of us and we all had transvaginal mesh, that is what our petition is about.

“Since then we now have many people in our group who have similar mesh to Eileen, we also have men and women with hernia mesh. If we were doing our petition again we would widen it and we would include all mesh.”

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “This is a welcome move that represents a victory for campaigners and the many victims of one of the greatest corporate scandals of recent times.

“Hundreds of women have had their lives ruined by mesh implants and it is right that the government has finally acted.”