Call for action a year after damning review published into NHS scandals

·3-min read
Pregnancy Stock (PA Archive)
Pregnancy Stock (PA Archive)

The Government has been urged to issue a full reply to a damning report which was published a year ago.

A scathing inquiry into three NHS scandals, published in July last year, set out how patients were “dismissed” and “overlooked” when serious concerns were raised about some medical treatments.

The review 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 redress those affected.

Women deserve better than the Government’s refusal to implement the Baroness Cumberlege recommendations

Emma Hardy, MP

The Government gave an interim response to the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review earlier this year, but campaigners said that ministers are yet to fully respond.

Louise Cousins, Epilepsy Action’s director of external affairs, said: “It took six months for the Government to produce an initial response to the Cumberlege report.

“It is very disappointing that another six months on, we are still waiting for a full reply.

“We need an assurance that the recommendations on sodium valproate will be actioned – and soon – to ensure that families affected are supported and that mistakes are never repeated.”

Last month, the NHS said that around 20,000 women and girls taking sodium valproate would be written to with advice about the risks of taking the drug in pregnancy.

Meanwhile, a data registry has been established to better track sodium valproate prescriptions to women with epilepsy.

The review concluded that women were still falling pregnant while taking the drug “without any knowledge of the risks”.

Research suggests that 10% of unborn children exposed to the medication are likely to suffer physical birth defects such as spina bifida and cleft palate, heart problems and limb defects, and 40% will have a developmental delay or autism.

Meanwhile a back bench debate is set to take place on Thursday led by MP Emma Hardy and Labour’s shadow health minister Alex Norris.

Ms Hardy, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group 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.”

Kath Sansom, founder of campaign group Sling The Mesh, said: “Mesh for stress incontinence was suspended in 2018 and we believe it should not be brought back until the audit is carried out until we know the true scale of complications.

“The Scottish Government has pledged to never bring it back. Sadly, surgeons in England are pushing for it to be used again.”

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