Alyn and Deeside AM has grilled the Health Secretary on steps taken to help mesh-injured women and to prevent further suffering to others.
Carl Sargeant first took up a campaign to help the cause after being approached by affected constituent Maxine Cooper of Connah’s Quay.
She is one of many women suffering excruciating complications after insertion of Tension-Free Vaginal Tape (TVT) or Tension-Free Vaginal Tape Obturator (TVTO) procedures to cure incontinence or prolapse. Men who have the tape inserted to correct hernias are also affected.
Mr Sargeant wrote to Health Secretary Vaughan Gething in July asking for an urgent review of mesh procedures in Wales. He also asked him to look into increasing awareness of symptoms among GPs so that complications can be properly diagnosed and evidenced.
Mr Gething’s response, received yesterday (September 5), says that he sympathises with Maxine and others who are experiencing serious complications.
He says that the evidence is mixed and while some experience debilitating problems many appear to experience significant benefits from the procedures without ill effect. The advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that the current evidence does not support the total withdrawal of the use of mesh or tape.
Mr Gething says: “Any accounts of harm or complications with such procedures must be carefully considered and possible complications reflected as potential risks to women considering an operation, as part of a fully informed consent process. A number of safeguards regarding the use of these products have been put in place since concerns emerged.”
He also says that he has asked a task and finish group to consider the latest recommendations made in Scotland and England in the light of practice already adopted within NHS Wales. This will determine whether there is any further action the Welsh Government needs to consider taking within Wales. The working group will report to Mr Gething and he will keep Mr Sargeant updated.
Carl Sargeant said: “I’ve replied to the Health Secretary today (Wednesday) to say I’m happy to hear that a task and finish group will look into this issue and look forward to receiving updates in due course.
“I’ve also asked for the Health Secretary’s response to concerns I have and asked that the task and finish group look into them.
“Women affected feel the evidence Mr Gething mentions may be flawed as currently women only receive follow-up appointments for a year post-procedure. Many women’s complications begin years later so I have asked whether there are plans to increase the post-procedure monitoring period.
“Mr Gething states that complications are reflected as potential risks to women considering the operation. Current feedback suggests risks are not being thoroughly communicated so I have asked what measures are in place to ensure that they are.
“My original letter asked what steps are being taken to make GPs aware of the symptoms of mesh complications. At the moment women presenting with complications are waiting years for a diagnosis, if they get one, by which time in many cases the injuries have progressed until they are irreparable.
“I look forward to hearing the Health Secretary’s response on these critical concerns.”
Maxine Cooper’s symptoms have worsened since July. She is due to have the first of several mesh removal and repair procedures under expert Sohier Elneil in London on September 20.
“If health professionals know this can go so wrong then they shouldn’t use it,” she said of the mesh.
“I’m now on morphine the pain is so bad and have been off work so long I’m terrified I will lose my job.
“This is ruining mine and thousands of other women’s lives.”