The mesh implant scandal is a global catastrophe: Former health secretary Alex Neil calls for international summit to tackle escalating crisis

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, on left, interviews mesh implant campaigners for her show in April
The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, on left, interviews mesh implant campaigners for her show in April

FORMER health secretary Alex Neil yesterday branded the mesh implant crisis a “worldwide catastrophe” and demanded international action to help victims.

He urged the Scottish Government to stage a summit bringing together experts from around the world as the scandal of women left badly injured by the polypropylene implants escalates.

Scotland became the first country to suspend use of the implants after Mr Neil, then health secretary, met scores of victims crippled by the surgery.

Former health secretary Alex Neil
Former health secretary Alex Neil

Mesh manufacturers have already paid out almost £3 billion in the US to victims and withdrawn mesh products for “commercial reasons”.

However, medical watchdogs insist the potential benefits of mesh outweighs the risks.

Yesterday, Mr Neil said: “A global response is required to one of the biggest medical scandals of modern times. Scotland should continue taking the lead on this issue and host an international summit.”

Mesh scandal report findings have ‘no credibility’ according to former Health Secretary Alex Neil

He is calling on his successor Shona Robison to support a summit. Earlier this year, Ms Robison was criticised after accepting the findings of a safety review branded a “whitewash” by campaigners.

Two campaigners and one review expert had resigned from the review claiming evidence highlighting concerns around use of the implants, used to treat bladder problems and pelvic organ prolapse, had been ignored or withheld.

They will explain their concerns and resignations to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee on Thursday.

The Sunday Post recently revealed all the medical experts on the review formerly had links to mesh manufacturers, but were only asked for declarations of interest dating back one year.

‘Betrayed’ victims quit mesh implants inquiry

Mr Neil, whose call for an international summit has cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament and the backing of East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton, Conservative, who is campaigning at Westminster, said: “Due to doctors failing to report complications and manufacturers having links to many surgeons, there are huge gaps in official figures.

“Independent evidence has been difficult to access because too many medical ‘watchdogs’ are also mostly funded by the medicines industry.”

Dutch campaigner Maria Smit from Meshed-Up EU, said: “We know of 1000 victims but believe numbers are higher. Eleven have died or committed suicide. ”

Scottish Mesh Survivors campaigner Elaine Holmes said: “We applaud Mr Neil. The world is finally waking up to this scandal.”

Almost 450 mesh victims have launched the biggest legal action in Scottish history with the NHS facing a £70 million legal bill.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We take issues around surgical mesh very seriously. This is why in 2014 we established the independent review.”