We have lis­tened and we have acted. I hope this re­as­sures all th­ese brave women


No-one can fail to have been moved by the sto­ries of women who live each day with pain caused by mesh im­plants.

Women like Olive McIl­roy and Elaine Holmes have bravely brought this is­sue to the top of the agenda at Holy­rood and be­yond. And I am grate­ful to them for that.

Since be­ing ap­pointed Health Sec­re­tary this sum­mer I have lis­tened care­fully to the ex­pe­ri­ences of women – in­clud­ing those helped by mesh when there was no other vi­able treat­ment.

With the sup­port of Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Dr Cather­ine Calder­wood I have ex­am­ined the ev­i­dence – mind­ful that only the UK-wide MHRA or the UK Gov­ern­ment can ban a med­i­cal de­vice out­right.

A sus­pen­sion on the rou­tine use of mesh since 2014 has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the num­ber of pro­ce­dures be­ing car­ried out but we need to go fur­ther.

So this week we in­structed a com­plete halt pend­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a high-vig­i­lance “re­stricted use” pro­to­col – an ef­fec­tive ban on transvagi­nal mesh for pelvic or­gan pro­lapse and stress uri­nary in­con­ti­nence.

The ban will stay in place un­til I am sat­is­fied this pro­to­col is ro­bust enough to en­sure such pro­ce­dures could only oc­cur in the most lim­ited cir­cum­stances – and with true, in­formed con­sent.

The only ex­cep­tion is the small num­ber of women await­ing ar­ranged pro­ce­dures, whose op­er­a­tions will go ahead only if it is the woman’s in­formed and ex­pressed wish.

This halt will also give us time to take ac­count of new guid­ance from NICE on stress uri­nary in­con­ti­nence and pelvic or­gan pro­lapse, ex­pected in April 2019.

Should the halt be lifted, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor on each board will con­sider ev­ery case based on clin­i­cal ev­i­dence and pa­tient con­sent, and be the of­fi­cer to ap­prove use. Even in th­ese cir­cum­stances, pro­ce­dures would only take place in a small num­ber of cen­tres of ex­per­tise.

Other kinds of mesh im­plants will be kept un­der re­view and sub­jected to high vig­i­lance mea­sures. I hope this de­ci­sion and th­ese ad­di­tional mea­sures will re­as­sure the women who have tire­lessly cam­paigned that we have lis­tened and, within the lim­its of our pow­ers, acted.

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