Surgical Mesh Implants — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:54 am on 18th October 2017.

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Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:54 am, 18th October 2017

This is an important debate for me and for so many hon. Members because of what our constituents are telling us. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Emma Hardy for giving voice, with great eloquence and passion, to an issue that so many of us feel strongly about. We have wanted a debate in this House for a long time, and I am pleased that she secured it.

My hon. Friend spoke for the women, many of whom are in the Gallery watching the debate, who want and need us to amplify their voice. One of the most heart-rending things for them has been the sense that they have not been listened to and their voice has not been heard. Our job is to listen and to be as brave as them by speaking in this debate and amplifying their voice. This topic has not had the coverage that it deserves, because it is complex, clinical and disputed. It is difficult to see a way through the clinical evidence and feel that we, as non-clinicians, can make sensible remarks without scaremongering, but we need to be brave and engage intellectually to try to understand it.

In truth, the story is quite simple. Since 2000, these products have been diligently marketed by the devices industry as a quick fix—an easy solution to stress-related incontinence or other problems for young women who want to maintain active lifestyles post-childbirth by doing exercise and other ordinary things that we take for granted. The products, which had not been widely used by the clinical world, became used all over the world. Approximately 130,000 women in the UK have had devices implanted.

The regulators and the clinical guidelines said that the risk was between 1% and 3%. However, behind those statistics, the reality has emerged that for a significant number of women—not the majority, but a significant minority—the devices have resulted in chronic, life-changing adverse effects such as sexual dysfunction, loss of mobility, and inability to work. Those effects ought to be taken seriously by us and by the medical fraternity. Instead, they have been dismissed and, worse still, women have been patronised by being told that their problems were unique, which is not the case.

There are questions to address, and the Minister needs to come up with some answers—I know that she is engaging seriously with this debate. If a medicine marketed to deal with incontinence led in one out of 10 cases to sexual dysfunction or the inability to walk or work, it would not be on the market. Surely she agrees that that is how we need to look at it. In Health questions last week, I think she said that the NICE guidelines are expected in 2018—next year. That is not what NICE is saying. Will she clarify whether the guidelines are coming forward to next year, as she implied? I am not sure whether she simply misspoke.

Finally, will the Minister ensure that, as the Government’s representative, she listens to the women who have been mis-sold these devices and lied to about the relative risk? They now feel that they are being listened to at last, but they need their Government to listen and to take action. Guidelines should be brought forward and mesh should be suspended until we know what the real risks are.