First, I put on record my thanks to Jackson Carlaw and others for what they do in this area. It is important to recognise Jackson Carlaw’s tireless efforts in standing up for and advocating on behalf of women who have suffered as a result of transvaginal mesh implants.
I am grateful to Professor Britton and her team for undertaking what I do not doubt for a minute is a very thorough and insightful piece of work. I also express my thanks to the patients who took part in the review. I sincerely hope that they found it to be beneficial. I do not need to say to Jackson Carlaw or anybody else in the chamber how traumatic and retraumatising it can be for the survivors to continue to tell their stories.
We have taken many steps already that address a number of Professor Britton’s findings. We have introduced new training on mesh for general practitioners, we have improved information for patients about the specialist mesh removal service in Glasgow, and the chief medical officer continues to champion shared decision making through his realistic medicine initiative.
We will now study the report in great detail and consider what further steps have to be taken.
I thank the First Minister for that answer and for his engagement on the issue. Will he commit to holding a full chamber debate on the issue in the autumn, after the Government has responded in full to the report, so that we can consider it?
Can I ask him for his reaction to an observation by Professor Britton in the introduction and overview to the report, where she comments on a parallel report that she was invited to undertake by the now Deputy First Minister in 2017 and which was published in 2018? Professor Britton says that the report
“highlighted a number of failings and made recommendations on how independent reviews should be conducted in future. Despite being well received, to date, none”—
I repeat, “none”—
“of the 46 recommendations have been implemented by the Scottish Government.”
The First Minister has referred to the work that colleagues across the chamber have done over the past decade with the women. Does he understand their dismay and frustration that none of the 46 recommendations that were made five years ago have been implemented? What will he do to rectify that?
I am very happy for the Government to commit to bringing a debate to the chamber to discuss and engage again on this important issue, once we are ready to respond to the latest review.
With regard to the 2018 investigative review, we did accept and agree with the vast majority of Professor Britton’s conclusions. Those recommendations have actually already been reflected in a number of inquiries and reviews that have been established in recent years.
We are also developing guidance to support inquiries and reviews that will very much build on Professor Britton’s recommendations, and we hope to publish that shortly. I am happy to communicate directly with Jackson Carlaw and Professor Britton, and with anybody else who has concerns about the recommendations. I can give an absolute commitment that not only have we agreed with those recommendations, but a number of them have already been implemented in reviews that we have taken forward.
The First Minister will be very aware of my support for a number of my constituents who have suffered the horrors of transvaginal mesh implants. The women have my unwavering support in their efforts—first, to have the mesh removed and, secondly, to seek answers as to why NHS services have often seemed to work against them, instead of for them. Notwithstanding what the First Minister has said today, I ask him to ensure that the report is considered and responded to as soon as possible, given the continued difficulties that many women in my constituency and across Scotland are facing, and because of the lack of trust that many women have in the NHS—in particular, with regard to mesh services.
I thank Stuart McMillan and again acknowledge his tireless advocacy on behalf of constituents who have been affected by implantation of transvaginal mesh. For me, it is incredibly important to reiterate that I pay tribute to the women who have bravely come forward over the years to tell their stories. Stuart McMillan is absolutely right: many of them have used words such as “gaslight”—they have not been believed. They do not trust the authorities in the NHS or various processes that we have brought forward.
It is very important that, in everything that we do, we bear in mind that lesson and ensure that we give survivors trust in the processes that we introduce. I have met many women—constituents of mine and others from right across the country—who have suffered as a result of transvaginal mesh being implanted. We will respond, as Stuart McMillan asks, as soon as we can. As I said in my response to Jackson Carlaw, it would be a good idea to do as he suggests and bring a debate to Parliament so that we can have a full and frank discussion of the matter.
The review also recommends that all information on mesh be drawn into a single website to keep patients informed. Will the First Minister commit to publishing waiting times on the website to inform patients about how long it will take to get their treatment, given that some are being forced to wait as long as 448 days? Will he take action to end those unacceptable waiting times, as a matter of urgency?
I am more than happy to look at what more we can do in order to be as transparent as possible around waiting times. When I look, for example, at the Glasgow mesh service, I see that there is simply no doubt but that it has been affected by the pandemic. Surgery was paused for a time due, in particular, to Covid and winter pressures.
However, I have looked at the Glasgow mesh service’s latest data on surgeries since they have been restarted. That service will soon be able to operate within 12 weeks of a patient and their clinician deciding on the course of treatment. We are making progress on some of the treatments that are available, but I will look into the issue of transparency around waiting times and report back to Jackie Baillie.