We should be looking into that. I thank my hon. Friend for making that excellent point.
Recently in America, a woman was awarded damages of $57 million in relation to mesh implant surgery, and more than 800 women are currently taking legal action in the UK. Yet so far the Government have sat on the fence on this issue, acknowledging in answers to parliamentary questions from Paul Masterton and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) that it is a problem, but completely failing to create a robust system to ensure that all complications are accurately recorded.
The surgeon Robert Bendavid has argued for longer studies on the women who have had mesh fitted, because in short-term studies the data are not capturing the level of risk. Many of the women who have written to Sling the Mesh have reported difficulties three years after having the mesh fitted. The Department does not even have accurate data to show just how many mesh removals have taken place as a result of surgery complications. We must have a proper framework for building an evidence base to determine exactly how widespread this problem is.
The guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence do not provide any information on mesh-removal surgery procedures. I accept the argument for clinical freedom for surgeons and that there are difficulties in testing objects that go into our bodies, but that makes the case for thorough and effective follow-up even more important. There is an ethical duty for surgeons to write and record where there have been complications, so will the Minister commit today to ensuring that all mesh procedures are properly recorded? Will she commit to the mandatory reporting of all complications, and will she commit to raising awareness of this condition?
Raising awareness is not just about raising awareness among the general public. Women are telling us that they are going back to their doctors and surgeons after surgery and being met with blank faces when they describe the complications that they are experiencing. It seems that without adequate research and awareness of the risks of mesh surgery, patients are not receiving the support and aftercare that they need. Although we welcome the resource guide that has been developed to provide GPs with more information about the risks of transvaginal mesh implants, more must be done to encourage dialogue on this issue between GPs and their patients.
Building an evidence base is not the only issue. Many people, most notably the Sling the Mesh campaign, have raised concerns about the fact that previous reviews, especially in England, of surgical mesh have focused solely on the procedural failures of mesh surgery and not looked into the safety of the product itself. That is in line with the findings of a report issued by the EU’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, which said that when assessing the risk associated with mesh application, it is important to consider the overall surface area of material used, the product design and the properties of the material used.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend Owen Smith, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on surgical mesh implants—he was of great help to me in preparing this speech—when he says that the fact that many companies have already taken their mesh product off the market should tell us that something is not right with these devices. We have to go to the core of the issue and investigate the fundamental safety of the products. Will the Minister commit to doing all she can to ensure that any future reviews of mesh products look at product safety as well as procedural issues?