Vaginal mesh 'biggest medical scandal' since thalidomide, MPs told

Doctors are "voting with their feet" about the use of vaginal mesh, ministers have been told, amid claims it is the "biggest medical scandal" since thalidomide.

Labour's Emma Hardy led calls to suspend the use of surgical mesh following reports that many patients have suffered complications after being fitted with the medical products.

As campaigners from the group Sling the Mesh - wearing red and white polka dot bandannas - looked on from the public gallery, Ms Hardy urged the Government to consider launching a full public inquiry into its use.

The Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle MP said: "Out of all the people having the mesh insertion procedure the number of subsequent outpatient appointments per 100 for gynaecology is 79, and for rehabilitation, physiotherapy and occupational therapy its 43.

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"And during the last nine years the figures show the number of women having the procedure has fallen by 48%, which to me says an awful lot about what the doctors are thinking about this.

"These women were injured, these women were ignored, these women are the victims of a scandal."

Labour's Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) intervened, asking: "Would (Ms Hardy) not agree with me that this is really the biggest medical scandal since thalidomide?"

Ms Hardy said she "completely" agreed that it was "an absolute scandal", and said the data showed the number of operations using mesh had "halved over the last decade".

"This shows that doctors and patients are voting with their feet about mesh and telling the world that they do not want to use it."

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She used the backbench business debate to call on the Government to commit to a "full and unequivocal suspension of mesh implant operations", bring forward Nice guidelines for mesh in stress-related urinary incontinence from 2019 to 2018, and offer pelvic floor physiotherapy as standard on the NHS to all new mothers.

"I remain deeply concerned that mesh has not yet been completely suspended and it remains possible for doctors to still use it, especially in the case of stress urinary incontinence," she said.

"There is also still no physiotherapy universally available for all new mothers as standard, as there is in France, to stop these problems before they even arise."

MPs heard the story of one woman who had to be lifted up to walk, as well as the significant impact surgery had had on some women's mental health.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the Health select committee, also criticised "cavalier attitudes" and a "wild west" where mesh was aggressively marketed.

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She added: "Many of the women that I have met, as I say, have had profound, life-changing injuries and I think they are entitled, many of these women, to compensation."

Labour's Owen Smith, a former shadow cabinet minister, said there had been almost one million outpatient appointments linked to vaginal mesh, with costs to the NHS somewhere in the region of £250 million.

A so-called "failure rate" of between 1% to 3% was not acceptable anyway, Mr Smith said, adding that the numbers "are far greater than that".