An inquiry ordered by the government has found vaginal mesh, hormonal pregnancy tests and an anti-epilepsy medicine that harmed unborn babies paints a damning picture of a medical establishment that failed to acknowledge problems even in the face of mounting safety concerns, leading to avoidable harm to patients.
Instead, women routinely had symptoms attributed to psychological issues or it being “that time of life”, with “anything and everything women suffer perceived as a natural precursor to, part of, or a post-symptomatic phase of, the menopause”, the inquiry heard.
“For the women concerned, this was tantamount to a complete denial of their concerns and being written off by a system that was supposed to care,” the review, chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, concluded.
Cumberlege said the pain experienced by so many women and their families was beyond anything she had previously encountered. “Much of this suffering was entirely avoidable, caused and compounded by failings in the health system itself,” she said. “We couldn’t believe that people had gone through so much agony and suffering and had been ignored. “As women, we know when things are not right with our bodies,” she said. “We are the first to know. When that information is ignored, it is simply belittling and adds to the suffering.”
Kath Sansom, who founded the Sling the Mesh campaign in 2015, welcomed the recommendations, saying: “The report is hard-hitting, harrowing and recognises the total failure in patient safety, regulation and oversight in the UK. It also makes it very clear that our medical establishment is deeply entrenched in institutional denial and misogyny.”
Prof Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said, “Most people would be astonished to know that when they have an operation and a medical device or implant is used, there is no systematic way of tracking that implant over the following months and years.”