Edinburgh mesh survivor tells how her hopes of an end to 17 years of pain were dashed
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Like hundreds of other women, she received a vaginal mesh implant and is still suffering the consequences.
Mesh was used to treat incontinence and prolapse, usually following childbirth, but its use was discontinued in October 2018 because of the number of serious problems associated with it.
Then in July 2020, Samantha was given hope when the then Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced a new service to help women suffering from the agonising complications of mesh implants. But two years on, she is still waiting for her ordeal to end.
Backed by £1.3m of Scottish Government money, the NHS National Services Division was tasked with establishing the new service within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Samantha, who lives in The Inch, said: “I was elated when the new mesh care was announced, but I was heartbroken when I tried to access this care, only for my hospital gynaecology department to tell me the NHS would not honour most of the measures. They were unwilling to refer me to the Glasgow unit, and scared me half to death by saying people like me will never be 100 per cent mesh-free. It’s as if they are trying to put us off mesh removal surgery.
“Care in the past had been so horrific, painful and humiliating – nothing but a series of people wanting to poke, prod and stick things in me, leaving me feeling used, abused and traumatised. I just want this out so I can be free of this nightmare. We were promised better.”
Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber said the promise of help for mesh survivors came from the top because in 2019, after the women’s plight was raised by former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, ex-Labour MSP Neil Findlay and former SNP health secretary Alex Neil, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said she was “absolutely committed to and determined that we will do everything possible to get these women the treatment and the care that they need”.
Ms Webber said: “A year later Jeane Freeman said she recognised ‘the distressing physical and emotional effects which mesh complications have had on women’ and that ‘strong and decisive action’ had been taken to meet their needs by the NHS boards where patients lived so their care could be delivered as close to home as possible. Samantha is living proof that the promise has not been fully honoured.
“Current health secretary Humza Yousaf must be honest with Samantha and the hundreds of other victims still waiting for help and justice, and explain to them why the system is still failing and tell them exactly what will be done to give them the treatment they were led to expect.”
Samantha said: “I find it impossible to trust the NHS to care for me with mesh issues and nothing has been done to address the issues I face.
“A life with mesh is a degrading and soul-destroying existence and has already destroyed so much of our lives. We don’t want mesh to wreck what time we have left.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said any decision on mesh removal was a clinical one and every individual case was different. “Women who are concerned about possible mesh complications are encouraged to discuss this with their local clinicians within their own health board in the first instance. If the patient and her clinician agree it is appropriate, they will be referred to the Complex Pelvic Mesh Removal Service in Glasgow where they will have to the option of treatment in Glasgow, of referral to a specialist NHS centre in England, or to an independent provider. All of these options will be provided free of charge to the patient. Any patient with concerns about the care they have received should not hesitate to seek a second opinion, and their GP will be able to advise on this.”