Surgical Mesh Implants — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:02 am on 18th October 2017.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:02 am, 18th October 2017

First, I congratulate Emma Hardy on bringing a major issue to the fore. I say “major”, not because there are necessarily millions of people involved—the final number of women who have been affected is not yet known—but because the impact that this issue has had on the lives of the people who have been affected by it is major and heart-breaking, and it deserves attention and action from this place.

I have received a large number of emails from Northern Irish people outlining their horrific experiences and some of the ladies affected are in the Gallery today. It would seem that in an attempt to access a cheaper form of surgery, we are putting some people at risk of horrific complications. It is clear that this surgery must be used only after the full extent of the dangers is outlined and fully understood by women, and once they accept that this option comes with a massive warning.

One of my constituents contacted me about this issue. She has not worked for two years and she will have an operation very shortly. In the short time that I have in which to speak, I will say that another woman—she is not from my constituency, but from the constituency of my party leader—contacted me and outlined her case. Her experiences are clearly similar to those of other women who have been affected:

“Listed are just a few of what I have and am still enduring since the surgeon inserted this foreign object into my body: Constant agonising pain, as if I was being cut inside…
Inability to bend over without crying out in agonising pain…
Constant urine and bladder infections…
Inability to carry out my duties associated with my occupation…
Inability to enjoy any social life whatsoever”.

She is also unable to have intimate relations with her husband, which she says has been “detrimental to my marriage”. She is also suffering:

“Depression and extreme low self esteem…
Sweating profusely…
Inability to walk or exercise due to chronic pain and fatigue…
Severe agonising pain passing urine…
Visits to A&E with agonising pains in my groin, legs and pelvic area... Visits to out of hours doctors and many visits to my GP practice”.

She says she has had:

“Regular phone calls and visits to the continence nurses to find my bladder was not emptying properly and each time told my urine sample showed up infection and blood. My family as a unit have been affected also, as they too feel my stress and pressure that I have and am under due to no one helping or believing me.”

This is a lady who is wearing what amounts to—I say this with respect—adult nappies, and I for one am not prepared to ignore her story.

There are some 250 members of the Meshed Up Northern Ireland support group and their pleas are very clear. There are no options in Northern Ireland for the surgery that is necessary. All those ladies who have had mesh implants must come across the water for surgery. Some have had operations; some are about to have an operation.

My party is very concerned about that situation and, for the record, we are asking for the best possible information, including better data for women considering this procedure; an improved and more holistic approach to caring for these women; updating of clinical guidance and standards; increased awareness among GPs of post-operative problems, with better access to follow-up clinical expertise for those women with problems; and a more complete picture of the level and seriousness of the complications. There must be standardised information for patients and a more consistent consent process, so that when women are asked about these operations they understand what they mean and the implications, because they have not been told—at least my constituents were never told—about the implications and had no idea what the operation meant. We are asking for specialist centres with multidisciplinary teams to advise on and treat complications and post-operative problems; a minimum workload of cases for surgeons carrying out relevant procedures; and further ongoing research into mesh procedures and adverse effects.

All those things would be best considered within an inquiry. That is what I am asking for today, that is what my constituents are asking for, and that is what all the sufferers from this problem in Northern Ireland are asking for.