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Northern Ireland mesh removal service ‘needs specialists’

A service for removing mesh implants must bring in outside expertise as surgeons in Northern Ireland have little experience in the field, a campaigner has said
A service for removing mesh implants must bring in outside expertise as surgeons in Northern Ireland have little experience in the field, a campaigner has said
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A service for removing mesh implants must bring in outside expertise as surgeons in Northern Ireland have little experience in the field, a campaigner has said.

Northern Ireland has had a mesh centre in Belfast, operated by a multi-disciplinary team and recognised by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, since early 2018.

Last year, 163 procedures were performed at the centre, although the BBC reported that the Health and Social Care Board had only stated that "at least four women have had mesh removed".

The centre will not become fully operational until March.

The implants are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence after childbirth, but since 2017 growing numbers of people have told of how they have caused them severe pain.

Jackie Harvey from the Sling the Mesh support group said that while funding for a fully operational regional centre is welcome it must have surgeons with expertise in removing mesh.

"What we would like to see is that this service or centre is staffed by surgeons who have been properly trained in mesh removal and not surgeons with 'transferable skills'," the campaigner said.

"I am not convinced the surgeons in Northern Ireland have the expertise in removing mesh simply because no one here has any real experience."

Ms Harvey said the top surgical team in this field is based in London "and between them have removed around 600 meshes, whereas here the number is in single figures".

A spokeswoman for the Health and Social Care Board said the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) was accredited as a mesh centre in 2018, "but required funding and resources to ensure the infrastructure was in place to fully function as a regional centre".

"Business cases were submitted to the Department of Health for this and also for the purchase of a translabial 3D scanner," she said.

"The BHSCT currently manages referrals from across the region and the multi-disciplinary team discusses the management of each individual case referred."

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