Families who have suffered “decades of hurt” after medical treatments which saw them caused avoidable harm “have waited too long” for redress or compensation, MPs have warned.
The Government has been urged by the Health and Social Care Committee to act “more swiftly” on recommendations made more than two years ago in the wake of a scathing inquiry into three NHS scandals.
That report, published in July 2020, set out how patients were “dismissed” and “overlooked” when serious concerns were raised about some medical treatments.
It examined how the health service responded to concerns over pelvic mesh – which has been linked to crippling, life-changing complications including chronic pain, infections and loss of sex life; the anti-epilepsy drug sodium valproate – which has been linked to physical malformations, autism and developmental delay in many children when it is taken by their mothers during pregnancy; and hormone pregnancy tests such as Primodos – which are thought to be associated with birth defects and miscarriages.
The review, chaired by Baroness Cumberlege, concluded that patients came to “avoidable harm” because the healthcare system failed to respond in a speedy and appropriate way.
It made a series of recommendations to help prevent further harm and ensure redress for those affected.
A follow-up review by MPs of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety (IMMDS) report has warned the Government it must make “significant progress soon” on those recommendations.
The committee’s review, published on Friday, stated: “In this report we make some recommendations which we hope will encourage the Government to proceed more swiftly on recommendations made more than two years ago.
“The recommendations in the IMMDS review report serve to address years, and sometimes decades, of hurt, and it is important that the Government makes significant progress soon.”
It added: “So far, the Government response to the IMMDS review recommendations which involve redress has been to promote litigation, rather than to consider providing an alternative to it.
“We have heard from those affected that this approach has not worked for them. These families need support and they have waited too long.”
Committee chairman Steve Brine said people have faced difficulties in getting “rightful redress” due to having to prove blame on the part of a healthcare provider.
He said: “We heard heart-breaking accounts of how the health system has failed to provide proper guidance, care and support to women and their families despite them having suffered avoidable harm as a result of medical interventions.
“Though the Government was asked to make a full public apology and did so in response to an independent review two years ago, a number of the recommendations ministers accepted then have still to be fully acted upon.
“Crucially, those affected have been unable to get rightful redress because to win a legal claim for compensation they had to prove blame on the part of the healthcare provider.
“We have been encouraged to hear Health Minister Maria Caulfield say she is now willing to look at the idea of a redress agency and urge swift progress to rectify years or even decades of hurt.”
The committee said it was “especially concerned” about a lack of data collection on the “transgenerational effects” on patients in the UK, adding: “We cannot understand how it is not in the interest of the Government to monitor transgenerational effects in those affected here in the UK and would welcome an explanation from the minister on this”.
MPs made a series of recommendations including urging the Health Secretary to make a statement detailing the Patient Safety Commissioner Dr Henrietta Hughes’s review of redress schemes and what additional resources will be made available to her as well as ensuring she “is not impeded by a lack of resource for and within her office”.
They also urged movement on the set-up of a register of industry payments to clinicians which they said would “provide transparency and reassurance”.
The committee said: “Although the Government has also given itself the powers to set up a register of industry payments to clinicians, no decision has been made yet about how to implement it and officials were not able to share a plan of when the register would be active.
“A register would provide transparency and reassurance, and we urge the Government to move at pace to bring in the necessary secondary legislation to set this up.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our sympathies remain with all those avoidably harmed by medical intervention. We have published a one-year implementation update on the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety review, with good progress towards the accepted recommendations.
“Health minister Maria Caulfield met with sodium valproate campaigners this week and, as she said in Parliament, we are seeking views from the Patient Safety Commissioner regarding what a redress scheme may look like.
“As an interim measure, NHS Resolution has published a claims process for those affected by pelvic mesh and sodium valproate, and we continue to look at how its effectiveness can be improved in helping women get access to some of the compensation they feel they need.”
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