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Mesh implant campaigners to fight on after inquiry rejected

By Angela Rainey

Campaigners calling for a ban on the medical use of mesh implants have vowed to fight on despite a public inquiry being rejected by Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Labour's shadow health minister Sharon Hodgson called for a probe into the plastic implant, used to treat post-partum prolapses, incontinence and hernias.

Ms Hodgson deemed the implants as an a "terrible product" and an "ongoing public health scandal" and added that "the Government need to do much more to support those affected".

She said that "mesh implants should be taken off the market now until we know more about the threat they pose to women's safety".

Jackie Harvey (49) from Banbridge was at Westminster yesterday with more than 60 other women and medical professionals to back the national campaign Sling the Mesh.

The mother-of-two attended with Paula Cairnduff and Susan McLarnon from Belfast, and Arlene Simmons and Iris Henderson from Larne, who are also members of Meshed Up NI, a support group for men and women who have been treated with the implant.

The polypropylene plastic mesh has been reported to have caused "horrendous and debilitating" complications such as perforating vital organs, which has resulted in some sufferers having their bladder, urethra and reproductive organs surgically removed.

Mrs Harvey experienced 12 years of chronic pain that left her virtually housebound, and although still suffering with painful feet, she found some relief after paying £8,000 to have her implants removed privately in England earlier this year.

She said she was disappointed by the Health Minister in yesterday's debate.

"Despite hearing numerous accounts of people suffering the horrendous effects of the mesh she did not change her stance," said Mrs Harvey.

"It was very, very disappointing but the fact that it is news is good news. There was clear cross-party support, but Jackie Doyle-Price remained the same.

"We will continue to raise awareness for the swathes of people out there who are being fobbed off, those people in chronic pain who do not realise that it's because of the mesh.

"It was 10 years before I realised what was causing my pain and I still have problems.

"We will keep going and continue to keep pushing forward for the story to be told. This is not a simple procedure where the benefits outweigh the risks, it's a procedure where the risks outweigh the benefits."

A moratorium on their use has been in place in Scotland since 2014 after reports that thousands of women UK-wide had been left disabled, unable to walk or work due to chronic pain. NHS England declared in a report in July the treatment of mesh implants "is a safe option for women".

But an updated report on guidance by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is expected.

Ms Harvey added: "Despite the outcome there was some positives to come out of it.

"Nice was due to produce a report on the mesh implants in 2018 but that has been brought forward to the end of this year, which is good news.

"And as we have said before, we are not going away, we want to see a change, there are some small steps in the right direction and we will fight on."

DUP MP Jim Shannon was among those who backed calls for an inquiry.

"I believe that it is an absolute scandal what these women have experienced," he said.

"While some people have reported no issues, others have awful health complaints.

"There is no system or facilities in Northern Ireland and women are having to cross the water to have issues addressed. There is clear angst and personal evidential bases that would suggest that these implants should be investigated further."

Implants complaints can be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and Adverse Incident Centre at Stormont.

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