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by Tom Freeman
30 March 2017
Alex Neil 'disturbed and disappointed ' by the outcome of the mesh implants inquiry he established

Alex Neil 'disturbed and disappointed ' by the outcome of the mesh implants inquiry he established

Alex Neil  - Scottish Government

Former Health Secretary Alex Neil has criticised the final report by an independent inquiry into the safety of transvaginal mesh implants that he set up.

Responding to a ministerial statement by his successor Shona Robison, Neil said the fact two victims had lost confidence and quit the inquiry made the report lack credibility.

The inquiry examined the use of transvaginal mesh implant surgery to treat incontinence or pelvic prolapse in women, which has left some patients severely disabled after painful complications.

An interim report received unanimous backing but since three members have quit amid claims part of the report were removed.

Outlining the Scottish Government's response, Robison said all the recommendations would be accepted and all evidence gathered by the inquiry would be published.

While it is not in the Scottish Government's power to ban the practice, she said, health boards would be instructed to make sure patients were fully informed of the risks.

"I think that it is really important that we learn lessons from the review," she said.

During First Minister's Questions Nicola Sturgeon had apologised to the affected women who have campaigned for a ban on the procedure.

However Neil said: "I am disturbed and disappointed that we have ended up where we have ended up. I say to the cabinet secretary that we cannot just leave things as they are."

He welcomed the suggestion of a formal review of the process.

"We need to look at how we got from a unanimous decision of the review group on the interim report to the position that we arrived at on the final report," he said.

"Given all the unanswered questions of the women and the allegations of the consultant, who believed that this was a “betrayal”, I do not think that we can leave it there, for the sake of the credibility of the report and its recommendations and for the sake of future reviews of this kind.

"If we do not carry the confidence and trust of our patients, these reports will not be worth the paper that they are written on."

Conservative Jackson Carlaw and Labour's Neil Findlay had also been supporters of the campaign by the survivors.

"It is a whitewash of damning evidence now traduced and downgraded, and of international reclassification of mesh as a high-risk procedure, not least by the European Union," said Carlaw.

Findlay said it was "a scandal" that so little time had been allocated for the statement, which came during a flurry of ministerial statements before the parliament broke for recess.

"The world has been watching Scotland in relation to mesh implants," he said. "What people will see is a cover-up, omission and a medical establishment stitch-up, which is a tragedy and a disgrace. The Scottish mesh survivors group has been betrayed and misled."

Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood has written to health boards with strict instructions on when mesh implants can be offered in the future.

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