A health campaigner from Connah’s Quay has high hopes for a public inquiry into the use of mesh implants after an emotional parliamentary meeting on the subject.
Maxine Cooper was one of more than 70 women and a handful of men from the Sling the Mesh campaign who attended a Westminster lobby yesterday (Tuesday) hosted by Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd.
They have all suffered excruciatingly painful complications following the insertion of mesh tape intended to cure incontinence and/or prolapse caused by childbirth or hernias.
The meeting was addressed by Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford. He compared mesh use with the thalidomide scandal, saying that there was evidence that mesh procedures carry significantly more risk than official figures suggest.
He said that because mesh injuries are not visible like the effects of thalidomide were, that there should be a public inquiry.
Sohier Elneil, a consultant urogynaecologist at University College Hospital, said that complication rates for some types of procedure appeared to be unacceptably high, and raised questions about whether the surgery was being used inappropriately.
She said that unpublished research by her team, based on Hospital Episode Statistics, suggests that urinary incontinence surgery has a readmission rate of 8.9 per cent and that most of these patients needed further procedures for major complications.
John Osborne, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist also addressed the room and Kath Sansom, mesh survivor and founder of Sling the Mesh, said:
Sling the Mesh has more than 2,200 members on its Facebook support page where women battle to come to terms with the physical, mental and emotional harm caused by an operation we were assured had low risks and was an effective treatment option ideal for busy mums.
The women told assembled MPs, aides and reporters about their individual stories, including Carol Williams from Holywell, who has been quoted in a report in The Guardian.
Maxine said about the event:
Carol from Holywell spoke and brought the whole room to tears as she’s been told she’s such a bad case that nothing can be done. It was so sad to see all the women there crying and even the male MPs had tears in their eyes. To hear the stories of women who’ve lost their bowels and bladders, who are walking with sticks or mobility scooters – it was amazing. They were so brave to say what they were saying – it was heart-wrenching.
Maxine has been supported in her campaign by Carl Sargeant, Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside, who has met with Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething to ask for a review into mesh procedures in Wales.
He has also been writing on Maxine’s behalf to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to assist with access to the right appointments and investigations for her.
While in London Maxine took the opportunity to introduce herself to Sohier Elneil, an expert in mesh removal, who confirmed she had received Maxine’s referral letters and would see her as soon as possible.
Carl Sargeant said:
I’m proud of Maxine for travelling to London despite being in crippling pain to do her bit for the campaign.
I’m also delighted for her that she will soon have an appointment with Ms Elneil. What Maxine has done in speaking out and campaigning like this has been to raise awareness among other women and to show that we won’t go away without a fight.
Owen Smith is launching an All Party Parliamentary Group into mesh and will bring the issue to debate in the autumn. The English Group Working Party mesh report is expected on Tuesday.
I don’t know what my prognosis is going to be – it’s scary.
They’ve known for years the complications mesh can cause and the fact they’re still implanting it knowing the complications is disgraceful.
The retired gynaecologist said he was ashamed of the profession – when he spoke out no one would listen to him. If they won’t listen to doctors and experts what chance have we got?
I want to stop this from happening to other women. We may not have been saved but hopefully we can save other women from making a big mistake. They want to keep it quiet but we’re not going to keep quiet.