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Transvaginal Mesh Implants

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017

4. What discussions he has had with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on transvaginal mesh implants. (901008)

My colleague, Lord O’Shaughnessy, met the MHRA on 27 September to discuss this very important issue. The Department will have further discussions with NHS England on the support given to patients who have suffered due to this procedure and has asked the regulator to work with the clinical community to assess the associated risks and whether alternative treatments offer better outcomes for patients.

Thousands of women across the country, including my constituent Elaine Holmes, the co-founder of the Scottish Mesh Survivors group, have to live with the catastrophic consequences of transvaginal mesh implants. With health regulators across the globe now waking up to the scandal and issuing alerts or deregistering mesh devices, will Ministers join me in urging the MHRA immediately to reclassify this damaging procedure as high risk?

I thank my hon. Friend for his work in this area. I fully sympathise with anyone who has suffered complications as a result of these devices, but we do not currently have enough evidence to warrant our asking the MHRA to reclassify these procedures, and this is a view shared by other regulators across the world. I can advise him, however, that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence strongly recommends that mesh implants not be routinely offered for the first surgical intervention on prolapse. That guidance is being updated—publication is due at the start of the new year—and will include an overarching document that looks in depth at the devices and the conditions surrounding the need for them, as well as the treatment of complications, to support better health outcomes.

A constituent came to my surgery to explain how this has impacted on her life. It is truly harrowing. I understand that NHS England has set up 17 regional teams to look into this. I want to be able to assure my constituent that the voice of women and how this is impacting them on will be considered. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond so that we might understand what the future holds.

I am absolutely aware that many women experience substantial side effects and complications following this procedure. Equally, however, many women also experience considerable relief from symptoms. We need a good review of the evidence to make sure that we adopt this procedure only when it fully suits women and that women understand the risks associated with the procedure. But I fully sympathise with the hon. Lady’s constituent.

It is deeply worrying, though, that this procedure was introduced with so little evidence to support it. I think we all have to agree it has led to unacceptable complication rates for certain products. Will the Minister heed the words of Professor Heneghan and hold a public inquiry into the numbers of women adversely affected and why the safety of so many women was disregarded?

I say again that many women have received relief from their symptoms following this procedure, but we need more evidence before we can properly review it, so it is important that we allow NICE to undertake its work so that we can take a clear view. Any procedure comes with risk—no surgery is without it—but obviously the more evidence we can gather, the better we can advise women of those risks.