'Lifechanging' Scottish govt funding for thousands of women crippled by mesh implants

25 January 2022, 19:31 | Updated: 29 January 2022, 12:43

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said it was important women can "get the care they want and need"
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said it was important women can "get the care they want and need" . Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Women crippled by mesh implants and who forked out tens of thousands to have the damaging devices removed in private surgeries, will have their costs reimbursed after MSPs voted to approve new legislation.

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More than 20,000 women had transvaginal mesh implants in Scotland over the last two decades to treat conditions such as incontinence and prolapse which can occur after childbirth. However many had life-changing side-effects, including being left disabled or in chronic pain as a result of the procedure.

After a long-running campaign, the implants were halted in 2018 and today MSPs passed the Transvaginal Mesh Removal (Cost Reimbursement) (Scotland) Bill which will now establish a scheme to repay mesh removal costs.

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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he was delighted the legislation had been passed unanimously.

"This Bill will help provide some justice to women who have been traumatised after receiving a mesh implant," he said.

"It is fair to say that without the courage of the affected women we would not be where we are today."

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Mesh implants have been used successfully in many other parts of the body, but when inserted in the abdomen have led to many women being "cut" internally - with women reporting severe and constant abdominal and vaginal pain following the surgery.

Some have been told that they can no longer have sexual intercourse, while other women have experienced infections and bleeding. Many also said their original incontinence symptoms were not improved by the surgery.

The Scottish Government has also announced future surgery and travel costs to Spire Health Care in Bristol and the Mercy Hospital in Missouri in the United States will now be covered - each procedure is estimated to cost between £16,000 to £23,000.

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Mr Yousaf added: "Separately from the Bill, work is continuing to widen the choices available to women who require mesh removal surgery, so that they can ask to be referred to a specialist centre in NHS England or to an independent provider.

"These options will be offered in conjunction with the service already available in NHS Scotland and are intended to ensure that everyone who has been affected by transvaginal mesh complications has the choice over where their treatment is carried out, and most importantly, get the care they want and need."

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw also welcomed the Bill and added: "It is radical to allow medical treatment to be reimbursed in this way and I think it is the first time the Scottish government will have passed a bill of this nature. This is a debt of honour because these women were injured on the NHS. It is a life-changing intervention."