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Vaginal mesh implant sufferers take fight to Westminster's door

By Donna Deeney

An estimated 10,000 women from across the UK are suffering physical pain as a result of vaginal mesh implants, in what has been described by the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as a "massive health scandal".

Owen Smith was among a group of MPs who met with more than 100 women who shared their stories of pain and trauma they suffered after having the procedure following complications of childbirth.

They want a total ban on the procedure, or a moratorium on it similar to one introduced in Scotland in 2014.

One woman, Jackie Harvey from Banbridge, told the Belfast Telegraph that while more than 170 women from Northern Ireland have contacted her support group, the actual numbers affected could be many times higher.

"I was fitted with an implant in 2005 and given little or no information about the risks," she said.

"Two years later I started to experience pain in my legs, back and groin but it was two years after that before the connection between my symptoms and the implant.

" I read about another woman who had the exact same symptoms and she also had an implant fitted.

"There isn't a single surgeon in Northern Ireland who can remove these implants. It is such a dangerous operation because they become embedded in a woman's bladder or they can come right through the vaginal wall.

"The amount of physical damage and mental anguish caused is horrendous and it has led to the breakdown of so many marriages and relationships. We need a total ban on this procedure otherwise the number of women suffering will continue to grow."

Mr Smith said: "If the volume of women we are talking about here - perhaps 10,000 or more in the UK - are accurate, then this is a massive health scandal. Over 100 women from across the UK including Northern Ireland, some in wheelchairs, some using walking sticks, came to Parliament for this very emotional meeting where woman after woman explained the devastating effects the mesh implants have had on their lives.

"An all-party Parliamentary group on mesh has been established as a result of this meeting, which will seek a meeting with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Labour front bench and the body responsible for the registration, testing and approval of devices."

Meanwhile, the former chair of the Northern Ireland Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Robin Ashe, said complication rates for the devices were very low.

"The use of mesh for the management of urinal incontinence is regarded as a safe and effective procedure in the right circumstances and in the right hands," he said.

"As time has progressed, we have realised that one needs to be very careful about the circumstances under which these devices are placed.

"Our complication rates for the devices in the management of urinal incontinence... are very low in the short and medium-term. What might be coming about now is, over a long period of time, we are recognising more complications and that requires to be evaluated further."

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