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MPs debate banning the use of vaginal mesh, as hundreds of women tell their stories

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Labour MPs have called for a full inquiry into the vaginal mesh scandal, after women have been left with chronic pain and life changing complications

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By Emily Baker on

Campaigners who want to ban the use of vaginal mesh tape in surgeries suffered a blow this morning, as minister for care Jackie Doyle-Price said there was no issue with the product itself. MPs gathered to debate the issue in parliament this morning, with Labour backing a full inquiry into the “ongoing public health scandal”.

Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, Emma Hardy, opened the debate with an impassioned speech on how the mesh implants had affected the women who had undergone the surgery. “The lives of these women and their families have been turned upside down. The devastation for women has been appalling.” Hardy said her email inbox has been full of women desperate for help following their implant surgery, and MPs followed with stories of their constituents’ issues with the vaginal mesh. Journalist Harriet Marsden, who was present for the debate, tweeted that women in the gallery who had suffered from complications after a vaginal mesh implant struggled to sit, and one was crying. One Conservative MP compared the scale of the issue to the Thalidomide scandal.

Despite the countless anecdotes reported in the news and read aloud throughout the debate, minister for care Jackie Doyle-Price deflected the accusations directed at the tape itself onto the wider healthcare system’s attitude to women. “From my perspective, the issue is not with the product, but with clinical practice. That’s what’s going wrong,” she said, “We need to make sure that women are treated properly by their clinicians and are given the opportunity to report complications.”

Women in the gallery who had suffered from complications after a vaginal mesh implant struggled to sit, and one was crying

Doyle-Price then went on to explain the MHRA’s stance on the continuing use of the tap, saying, “Mesh still is the best product for treating stress incontinence.” New NICE guidelines on the use of vaginal mesh tape, which were due to be published next January, have been brought forward to the end of this year.

News of the scandal broke earlier this year, when it emerged that hundreds of women had experienced pain and complications following a vaginal mesh implant. A limited report into the surgeries found at least one in 11 women who had been treated with the mesh had subsequently faced chronic pain. The mesh has been used as a 20-minute “quick fix” by the NHS and private practices to treat incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses since the mid-1990s, with 92,000 women undergoing the implant between April 2007 and March 2015. Since then, campaign groups such as Sling The Mesh have tirelessly highlighted the scandal to MPs and the press.

Hardy expressed her disappointment at the minister’s response to the debate, calling the reaction, “simply not good enough at all”. The MP closed the debate urging all the women who are suffering as a result of vaginal mesh complications to contact Doyle-Price with their stories. “Hopefully the weight of emails and letters coming to her doorstep will show that this needs to be looked at again,” said Hardy, “I will continue to be your voice in this debate… We will not let you down.”

@emilyrbakes

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