Health chiefs face flood of mesh legal claims

Yvonne Tobyn experienced abdominal pain which worsened until she could no longer sit upright after she had an operation to fit mesh implants. Picture: Scott Louden
Yvonne Tobyn experienced abdominal pain which worsened until she could no longer sit upright after she had an operation to fit mesh implants. Picture: Scott Louden
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A MOTHER who endured a “living nightmare” with controversial mesh implants is taking legal action – as lawyers warned Lothian health chiefs they face a flood of compensation claims.

Hundreds of women in the region are suspected to be suffering from painful side-effects from the procedure – used to ease incontinence and pelvic prolapse – with many more expected to develop problems later in what has been hailed a health “time bomb”.

Yvonne Tobyn, 52, was recommended to have the operation six years ago after being left with classical stress incontinence following the births of her two children.

She started getting abdominal pain 18 months ago which gradually worsened until she could no longer sit up straight, forcing her to go on long-term sick leave and often leaving her unable to drive.

Yvonne, from Penicuik, had to battle to get her complications diagnosed as medics initially dismissed claims they were caused by the polypropylene mesh implant. She underwent months of invasive tests with no prognosis, before finally opting to visit Glasgow for treatment.

She said: “It started off as a lot of groin pain but at the end I couldn’t sit upright. I had to slouch all the time because as soon as I sat, it was a stabbing pain in my abdomen.

“I couldn’t drive because using my right leg was like a knife stabbed into my tummy.

“I said to my GP that I had chronic fatigue, I had brain fog, everything was a battle. I couldn’t concentrate. Everyone told me I looked unwell, it was like constantly having the flu.

“I went through so many investigative procedures, it was ridiculous. I felt like I wasn’t getting listened to, whenever I mentioned the mesh, they just dismissed it.”

Specialists in Glasgow identified her mesh as the problem and removed the implant two months ago. She said her future was uncertain but she has already seen a “positive and dramatic change”.

Yvonne, a member of the Scottish implant survivors group, is now pursuing legal action with Edinburgh solicitors Lefevre Litigation.

She said: “I’m one of the lucky ones but if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t even have considered it.

“There are a lot of women who are in wheelchairs and using walking sticks because of the nerve damage that has been caused and in some cases, the mesh cannot be removed.

“I would urge anyone who suspects they are having problems with implants to go to their GP and keep asking about it.”

NHS Lothian has now suspended the surgery while investigations into the safety of the procedure are carried out. It follows Health Minister Alex Neil writing to every health board in Scotland, urging them to halt the procedure.

However, with hundreds of the operations carried out in the region every year – and complications often developing years later – experts believe the full scale of the problem is yet to unfold.

Peter Henderson, of Thompson’s solicitors, which is representing more than 100 women in claims against health boards and the implant manufacturers, said many were told by their consultants that nothing could be done.

He said: “We think there are potentially hundreds of women in Lothian, thousands of women across Scotland, who have had this procedure and are living in pain as a result and they don’t know they can do something about it. It’s a massive issue.”

Dr David Farquharson, medical director for NHS Lothian, said the board has begun writing to women who were to undergo the procedure with information about associated issues.

He said: “Patients were also offered a further review with their consultant to discuss their care. We have currently suspended the procedure and will await the outcome of the independent review.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com

Helen Martin – Page 21