My Lords, I will focus my contribution on the safety of medical devices, post-marketing surveillance and organ donation. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, did us all a service with her review, highlighting the trauma and damage suffered by women who have had implantable devices, such as surgical mesh, inserted in the pelvis to treat urinary incontinence.
This Bill could become an important vehicle for implementing the Cumberlege review. It recommends that, in the event of an issue with a device, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency—the MHRA—must have the power to remove a device from the register. This can occur only if all devices, not just some, are included. The report, in recommendation 7, calls for a central patient-identifiable database for all implantable medical devices.
Post-marketing surveillance often relies on professional organisations such as the royal colleges and the specialist associations to undertake outcome studies to assess complications after surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons believes that provisions included in Clauses 13 and 16 should be strengthened to ensure expert oversight of medical devices registers. The National Joint Registry is an excellent example of a long-established registry overseen by a steering committee of experts. Recommendation 7 is key, stating that the database can be
“linked to specifically created registers to research and audit the outcomes both in terms of the device safety and patient reported outcomes measures.”
The poly implant prosthesis, or PIP, breast implant is another example of a product that causes harm and misery to many women. The utilisation of systems for tracking devices, such as the Scan4Safety programme, which involves patients wearing barcoded wristbands that can be scanned and tracked against patients’ records, is to be recommended. Although new Clause 16 is welcome, we need to be clear whether the intention is to mandate the tracking of all medical devices or just a select few.
The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, or HSIB, has published several reports on safety problems arising from the design, usability, regulation, procurement and marketing of medical devices. For example, it has carried out an investigation into flaws in the design and usage of smart infusion pumps and several investigations into problems with poorly designed devices and equipment which might be manageable by those familiar with them but become a problem when used by those such as staff redeployed in the Covid crisis. The HSIB can highlight these issues but needs legislation to be able to enforce the withdrawal of defective equipment.
Finally, on organ donation—we have heard much of this from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and others—in a study published in BMJ Open, ethical issues were raised over the estimated 85,477 organ transplants in China. Ninety-nine per cent of the 445 studies failed to report whether the organ donors had given consent to transplantation. The paper concluded:
“The transplant community has failed to implement ethical standards banning publication of research using material from executed prisoners. As a result, a large body of unethical published research … exists, raising questions of complicity to the extent that the transplant community uses and benefits from the results of this research.”
The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will be bringing forward an amendment on this issue which I plan to support.