Norfolk women to join protests over pelvic mesh implant crisis
- Credit: Lorraine Lodge
Norfolk women are set to join mass protests in London and Manchester amid fears the UK is now in the grip of a pelvic mesh implant crisis.
Members of campaign group, Sling The Mesh, are protesting against new health guidelines which they say pave the way for generations of women to be harmed.
They are also fighting to keep open a specialist mesh removal service in London which was closed without warning meaning complex mesh removal operations - which some women had waited for up to two years for - were cancelled with just a few days' notice.
The mesh scandal has seen thousands of women complain of being left in constant pain after having the implants, which have been offered to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence after childbirth.
Last July, the use of mesh implants was immediately suspended after a Medical Devices Safety Review, led by Baroness Cumberlege.
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But the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has now issued fresh guidance paving the way for the implants to be used again, despite the review still going on.
The organisation said this was published within their normal timeframe, and that the guidance advises clinicians to continue to abide by the national pause on using the implants.
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But it has prompted even more urgent calls for the government to carry out a 20-year retrospective audit to track the outcome for every single woman who has had a mesh operation. Campaigners say it is the only way the magnitude of suffering will be revealed making the call for mesh implant operations to be banned unanswerable.
Lorraine Lodge, 53, from Great Yarmouth, said there was a lot of anger over the new NICE guidelines but also at surgeries being cancelled.
She said: 'We've been guinea pigs once and we're not being guinea pigs again.'
Mrs Lodge said she had been on the phone with woman who was so desperate she wanted to try and remove her mesh implant at home, before Mrs Lodge persuaded her not to.
'It's really scary,' she said.
A NICE spokesperson said: 'The committee had at the forefront of their minds the distressing symptoms that some women experienced because of the adverse effects of mesh surgery. As such, they recommended that surgery using mesh to treat these conditions should only be considered as a last resort when a number of conditions are met, including making sure the woman fully understands the benefits and risks of such a procedure.
'In England there is currently a high vigilance restriction (pause) on a group of procedures, including vaginally inserted mesh and tape to treat SUI and POP. The publication of our guideline is just one of the conditions set for the high vigilance restriction to be lifted. However a number of other conditions still need to be met and whilst the national pause remains in place, professionals should continue to follow its requirements.
'We will review our guidance if new evidence is published, if there is a substantial change in policy or legislation, or if there is a significant safety update from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority.'
In Manchester, women will be outside the Hilton Hotel in Deansgate, from 8am to 9.30am on May 9 to greet delegates arriving for the NICE annual conference.
In London women will be outside University College London Hospital (UCLH) on the same day from noon to 2pm. The mesh removal service by surgeon Suzy Elneil at the hospital has been stopped by chief executives until further notice.
A spokesman for the UCLH said: 'UCLH has taken a decision to pause mesh removal operations by one surgeon. This decision affects 13 patients given provisional dates for surgery in May.
'The decision was not made lightly. We deeply regret the distress this has caused this group of patients who are living with a very difficult and complex condition.
'We have written to all these patients offering them alternative options, including a referral to one of the eight other surgeons qualified to carry out mesh removal.
'Mrs Sohier Elneil is widely recognised as an expert in her field and her skill and expertise is much sought after by patients from all over the country. This high demand in referrals has led to lengthy waiting times for clinic appointments, investigations and dates for surgery.
'Unfortunately, she is the only urogynaecologist carrying out mesh removal at UCLH who is not accredited by the British Society for Urogynaecology (BSUG) and we are keen to support her to achieve this.
'We have therefore decided to pause operations by Mrs Elneil to help her manage her waiting lists and allow her the space and time to make improvements to her service.
'This will make the service safer for patients and protect its long term future, and in time this will mean we can help more patients.'
For more information search Norfolk and Suffolk Meshies or the Sling the Mesh on Facebook.