On 18th October, in a Westminster Hall debate on surgical mesh implants, Alec raised the following points on behalf of his constituents:
“I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) for securing this debate. I did not know about the subject until a constituent came to see me on Friday. The stories in the Chamber today from all parts of the realm—from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England—with every Member of Parliament telling a similar tale, show that this is the tip of the iceberg and that there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of women out there who could be struggling. Of course, they may not know yet that they will have a problem, because we do not have the data.
My constituent who came to see me is incredibly brave. She could not make herself at all comfortable during my surgery, but leant forward with her hands on the table. She could not sit, could not stand straight and could not bend over. As the consultation went on, she was sweating more and more with pain. It is all very well having sweeping statements about ruined sex lives and constant pain, but what does that mean? My constituent, who is only 47 years old, was more concerned about my embarrassment as she told me her story than she was about herself. A lot of women do not want to embarrass us, but we are the postmen for relaying stories back to Government.
My constituent said that during sex four years after the operation her husband ended up with a cut and bleeding penis. Further surgery has taken place and intercourse is now completely impossible. This lady had had a loving and physical relationship with her husband, and after further surgery now has no sexual stimulation at all. Indeed, she told me that any clitoral stimulation had immediately become a huge abdominal pain. She has also been diagnosed with a low level of infection. There is a shocking statistic: research has shown that 83.6% of implants have been found to have vaginal bacteria on them. That is an important statistic because the Medical Devices Regulations 2002 state that before a medical device can be placed on the market, the manufacturer must ensure that the device meets essential requirements, which include sterility and minimising the risks of contamination.
My constituent was a physiotherapist and had led a very active life. She can now barely get through a day. She was not told about the risks of the operation. Her prolapse was not serious enough to demand such an operation, but she was told, “We can sort that out.” It was not until 2013 that she was told she had a vaginal extrusion. Even then she was told by the surgeon, “Don’t worry; you truly have a designer vagina now,” which showed a complete lack of sympathy and understanding that is scandalous.
We are debating the issue and showing that the scandal has moved forward. I did a lot of work on the thalidomide campaign and I thought this was the next thalidomide scandal. That is how Sky News described it this morning in recognition of how serious this matter is. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) has said, there may be areas where the procedure can be used, but at a minimum the situation warrants a suspension of use at this stage, as has happened in the United States and in Scotland. My constituent is a generous woman. She said, “I don’t expect you to understand this quickly, but please raise my voice today in Parliament.”
Suspension and study of the data is vital; otherwise, we could be creating the biggest scandal in years in the NHS.”