Scottish Mesh Survivors Charter

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th March 2021.

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Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

7. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will adopt the Scottish mesh survivors charter. (S5F-04901)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I have seen the charter and we are certainly committed to meeting its aims. We want to offer people an appointment as quickly as we can—sorry; I have to find the right question. My apologies—this issue is really important and I want to ensure that I am reading the right information.

We have already taken decisive action to improve services for women who suffer mesh complications and we are working towards meeting all the outcomes that the charter seeks.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport halted use of transvaginal mesh in 2018 and we are committed to keeping that halt in place. We have established a mesh fund and the health secretary has asked that the necessary steps be taken to extend its remit to allow reimbursement for past mesh removal surgery. A comprehensive service for mesh complications and removal is now in place, which will continue to develop in consultation with affected women.

NHS Scotland has already started a tender process for mesh removal surgery, which would be provided outside the national health service for those who feel unable to accept treatment in the NHS. Tenders will be accepted from the United Kingdom and overseas. Finally, we are committed to establishing a patient safety commissioner, as the Cumberlege report recommended.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

The First Minister might want to look back at the script that she eventually found and correct the record, because frankly some of those points bear no relevance to reality. It took eight years for mesh-injured women to secure a meeting with the First Minister. They have had to fight and scrap for every small advance that they have made, and they have now been told in a letter from the cabinet secretary that they cannot get treatment from a surgeon of their choice—someone whom they trust and who they know has the required skills to remove the poison that has destroyed their lives.

The Government talks about putting the patient at the centre and person-centred care, but we will not find a single mesh-injured woman who believes that that is not just corporate sales patter.

All leaders of the parties in the Parliament have signed the mesh charter. Why has the First Minister not signed it?

The First Minister:

I am happy to give my support to the mesh charter. What I was trying to do, and to do accurately, was set out the ways in which we are already taking forward the aims of that charter. Neil Findlay, who, with others in the chamber, has rightly championed the interests of women who have been badly let down, says that there is more to do. We are making progress on all the key asks of the charter; on the asks on which we are not yet making progress, the health secretary has already given instructions—for example, on our finding a way of reimbursing the cost of mesh removal surgery, probably through an extension of the remit of the fund that has been set up.

The use of mesh has been halted—there is absolutely no intention to go back on that. The mesh fund, which we established after I had met with affected women, has been set up, and we are looking to extend its remit.

On the surgery issue, the comprehensive service has now been put in place, but we recognise that not all women will want to accept treatment in Scotland, which is why we are looking to establish a service, and are tendering for a service that could be outside Scotland, and taking steps to appoint a patient safety commissioner.

We are determined that all the things that the women who were let down want are progressed and delivered. We will continue to take all the necessary steps to achieve that.