Surgical Mesh Implants — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:50 am on 18th October 2017.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 10:50 am, 18th October 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I thank Emma Hardy for securing this debate and shining a light on a condition that is very distressing for far too many women. Clearly this is not where we would like to be.

Obviously, many hon. Members would like an immediate ban on mesh products. From my perspective, the issue is not with the product but with clinical practice. That is what is going wrong. That is where we need to be much clearer, ensuring that women are treated properly by their clinicians, given proper advice and risk assessments, and given the opportunity to report any complications and the ability to complain and challenge. The Government also need to ensure that all clinicians have the most up-to-date and appropriate advice.

The focus of this debate is the women who are suffering. The most important thing we can do—my priority—is to ensure that they get the support, care and treatment they need to alleviate a debilitating condition.

With regard to the evidence, we expect to produce the NICE guidelines before the end of 2017. We will bring them forward as soon as possible. I am sure that hon. Members will want to review those guidelines, to see whether they are satisfied that they have moved forward.

The advice I have received from the MHRA is that mesh is still the best product for treating stress incontinence, but the evidence regarding prolapse is more mixed. I can give that advice to hon. Members today, but we await the NICE guidelines before the end of the year.

The women are the most important aspect of this debate. We should be focusing on them. We must make sure that they are fully supported to make informed decisions about the surgery, and I have heard from many hon. Members that in many cases they were not. This is a risky process and, as my hon. Friend Dr Wollaston, the Chair of the Health Committee, said, many women have benefited from this surgery but there is a risk to it, and those risks were not properly communicated to allow women to make an informed choice. That is not acceptable and we must make sure that does not happen in the future.

To do all of that, we are working with patients, NHS England and the MHRA, to come together with the mesh oversight group. The most recent report was published in July and its recommendations are being implemented. The updated guidelines will be published before the end of 2017. It is important that regulators ensure that advice and guidance keep up with developments in clinical technology and practice. We will constantly review evidence as it comes in to keep advice and guidance up to date.

A number of hon. Members mentioned that there have been no clinical trials for these devices, and I agree that we need to continue to draw on emerging evidence. There have been a number of research studies which have directly informed the guidelines issued by the regulators and led them to reach their conclusions, on which I have just advised the House.

It is still important that we listen to the concerns of women, and I encourage all hon. Members who speak to their constituents suffering with the consequences, to make sure that they report those complaints through the MHRA yellow card scheme, so that we can build a body of evidence about where things have gone wrong.