I congratulate Emma Hardy on securing this important debate. In the brief time available, I would like to touch on the issues of how we allowed this situation to continue to for so long, consent, clinical quality and governance, including in the private sector, and what we should be doing going forward.
First, I pay tribute to the many women who have been courageous in coming forward and discussing intensely painful and personal experiences, not only with myself but with other Members. I would like to quote one, who said:
“I am in so much pain at times that I just give up on the day…The pain never goes, it just varies in intensity.”
We have heard numerous examples of how these devices are deeply impacting on people’s lives with life-changing symptoms. In many cases, those symptoms were not life-changing before the procedure. Many women have delayed symptoms or were unaware that they had these devices inserted in the first place. Women have told me that they did not consent to these devices being inserted and were not informed of the risks. A fundamental principle of consent is that unless the consent is informed, it is not consent at all.
It is very difficult for women to be properly advised of the complications when we have such poor data, and that goes to the heart of the scandal. The clinical trials of these products were inadequate. We know now that variations in the type of mesh lead to a greater or lesser risk of complications in the first place, yet these products were varied and introduced and marketed aggressively without adequate clinical trials, and that is why there has been such a long delay before action has finally been taken. I hope the Minister will address that in her remarks, because if clinical trials are not a fundamental condition for the introduction of new devices, we will see this situation with other devices.
Another concern is the way that such procedures are used. We saw variation in the techniques with which these devices were introduced. We must have an absolute guarantee that there will be proper clinical trials, just as we would expect for the introduction of medicines.