NI woman Susan McLarnon calling on government to address vaginal mesh scandal

A Northern Ireland campaginer has said women have been left “virtually high and dry” over the lack of government progress on the Cumberlege inquiry published last year into drugs and procedures that caused them or their babies considerable harm.

By Helen McGurk
Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 5:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 5:41 pm
Susan McLarnon has been in pain for five years due to the vaginal mesh
Susan McLarnon has been in pain for five years due to the vaginal mesh

Belfast woman Susan McLarnon, 55, who had vaginal mesh inserted for stress urinary incontinence in 2016 and has been in constant daily pain since then, is among thousands of women across the UK who have voiced frustration that on the one-year anniversary of the publication of Baroness Cumberlege’s scathing First Do No Harm report all the government has achieved is a “half-hearted apology” from Matt Hancock.

The report looked at the dismissive attitude towards women harmed by mesh implants, and also women and their babies harmed by Primodos pregnancy testing drug and epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate. Primodos was discontinued in the 1970s. Sodium Valproate is still used today and there are fears women are still not being warned of the risks to their unborn baby if they take it during pregnancy.

Ms McLarnon of campaign group Sling The Mesh Northern Ireland said following her procedure, and for the last five years, she has experienced “severe groin pain and hip pain” and pain in her legs which means she relies on crutches.

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The 55-year-old is a member of campaign group Sling the Mesh

The mum-of-two said she was referred to England in 2019 to have the mesh “fully removed”, but added she is worse pain now than before as it was only partially removed.

“I was told that it was fully removed, but it hasn’t been. At Christmas the consultant owned up to say that not all of it had been removed - I had a feeling it hadn’t been anyway.

“I have been left in more pain that what I was before and obviously the stress urinary incontinence has come back worse than what I originally went in for.

“Now I am left with two prolapses after the surgery and I need the rest of my mesh removed. I have no trust in the doctors in England to do that, and I have no trust in the doctors in Northern Ireland to do that. So I am kind of left in limbo.

“The medication I am on doesn’t take away the pain, it just eases it. Since 2016 I have been in pain constantly.”

Ms McLarnon added: “Mesh services are next to nonexistent. No formal announcement has been made since the new centres opened on April 1. Patients who are lucky enough to get a gynaecology appointment are still being told mesh isn’t the issue. They are still in denial. Women have been left in limbo. Suffering horrendous pain with nowhere to turn. Some are being told to complain to their MP yet nobody is listening to us.”

Politicians from all parties are meeting tomorrow to call for action in a debate in Parliament. The back-bench debate today is being led by MP Emma Hardy and Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris.

Emma Hardy, MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into mesh, said: “Women deserve better than the Government’s refusal to implement the Baroness Cumberlege recommendations. The recommendations will not only make life better for those living with mesh complications, they will also improve patient safety for everyone in the future.”

The debate is calling for all Cumberlege recommendations to be implemented without further delay, including financial redress for women and sweeping reform of the healthcare and regulation framework.

It is also calling for a retrospective audit of mesh to work out the number of women suffering. The Cumberlege report suggests contacting all women who had mesh in the year 2010 to see how they are in 2021.