Thompsons' medical negligence solicitors have welcomed calls for a public inquiry into vaginal mesh surgery, following concerns that complication rates may be higher than official figures imply.

Tens of thousands of women in England are believed to have been treated with vaginal mesh implants, slings and tapes in the past decade, according to figures obtained by the Guardian. The surgery sees a plastic mesh inserted to support the bowel, bladder or womb, often to treat childbirth complications, such as urinary incontinence and organ prolapse.

However, at a meeting in parliament organised by Pontypridd Labour MP Owen Smith, campaign group Sling the Mesh called for the practice to be stopped. Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, and Sohier Elneil, consultant urogynaecologist at University College Hospital, said complication rates for some types of the surgery appeared to be unacceptably high. 

While most vaginal mesh surgeries go without complication, at least 800 women are currently planning to take legal action against the NHS and mesh manufacturers for the severe pain and anguish they say vaginal mesh implants have caused them. They claim medical practitioners and mesh implant manufacturers failed to warn them of the risks.

The Westminster meeting, held on 18 July 2017, heard from women who had experienced traumatic complications because of their surgery, including extreme pain and even organ removal. Many referred to their pain being questioned by healthcare professional and being put down to other causes. Several of the women present talked of considering ending their lives because of the pain they were enduring.

Some doctors have put the blame for the complications on sub-standard products and inadequate training. Mark Slack, a consultant gynaecologist at Cambridge’s Addenbrookes Hospital cautioned against creating panic among patients and said TVT, or tension-free vaginal tape, a common mesh procedure, remained a “good operation if done by the right people, by the right indications”.

Research into complication and readmission rates for vaginal mesh implant surgery vary considerably, with the government watchdog Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) suggesting around one to two per cent of patients who have had mesh procedures for incontinence report pain or “erosion”. Sohier Elneil, of University College London, meanwhile, referred to unpublished research by her team that pointed to an 8.9 per cent readmission rate for vaginal mesh procedures.

Linda Millband, national lead lawyer of Thompsons Solicitors’ clinical negligence team, has been providing legal guidance and support to women who are concerned about TVT surgical complications.

She said: “The accounts of patients living with the devastating consequences of vaginal mesh implant complications are harrowing. While the majority of TVT surgeries go well, this recent parliamentary meeting highlighted significant research gaps regarding complication and readmission rates for vaginal mesh surgery that must be filled. Concerns voiced by medical practitioners about the quality of some of the devices promoted by manufacturers, and the training provided to doctors charged with carrying out these procedures, must be addressed.

She added: “I would urge any woman who is experiencing physical, psychological and financial repercussions of TVT surgery complications, or any complications they believe may be related to a mesh implant, to seek immediate medical support and to consider seeking legal advice. You may be able to start a clinical negligence compensation claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of TVT surgery, Thompsons Solicitors can help you make a medical negligence claim. For more information, contact our legal advisors for free today on 0800 0 224 224 or fill in our free, no obligation claim form and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

You can also read our TVT factsheet here.