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Call to halt Northern Ireland vaginal mesh implants

By Lisa Smyth

A suspension of the use of vaginal mesh introduced in England should be extended to Northern Ireland to protect women here, campaigners have said.

An independent review into the use of the controversial implants has recommended the immediate suspension of surgical mesh for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence.

The Department of Health in England has accepted the advice, while health officials here are still considering what to do.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: "The department is actively considering the position in light of this latest development."

However, Sling the Mesh NI, which represents hundreds of women from Northern Ireland who say their lives have been destroyed as a result of the implant, last night demanded immediate action.

Jackie Harvey said: "Unfortunately this suspension doesn't include Northern Ireland, so women here have not been afforded the same protection as those in England and Scotland, where a mesh moratorium has been in place in most hospitals since 2014.

"With this in mind, Sling the Mesh NI is calling upon the Public Health Agency, Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly, the Department of Health, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride, and whoever else holds sway, to do the right thing and apply the precautionary principle and stop all mesh procedures in line with England until March 2019."

Women have long complained about vaginal mesh implants - used to hold up pelvic organs to treat incontinence and prolapse - causing agony by cutting into tissue.

Almost 7,000 women in Northern Ireland had vaginal mesh implants between 2005 and 2015.

While the majority of women will not suffer complications from the procedure, it is not known exactly how many people in Northern Ireland are currently experiencing problems.

However, Sling the Mesh NI has more than 500 members.

Women have told how their lives have been destroyed by the mesh implants, some left in agonising pain or completely incontinent, while some women have said they have been left in a wheelchair after having mesh inserted into their body.

Vaginal mesh surgery is to be "paused" for some treatments in England, officials announced yesterday. Ministers have accepted a recommendation from the nation's chief medical officer, who asked that "a pause in the use of vaginally inserted mesh to treat prolapse and tape/sling used to treat stress urinary incontinence is implemented through a high vigilance programme of restricted practice".

The recommendation comes after an official review into the use of vaginal mesh called for an "immediate pause" in the use of surgical mesh for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence.

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