Call for action a year after damning review into NHS scandals

Pregnant woman
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Campaigners have urged the government to issue a full reply to a damning report which came out a year ago.

In July 2020, a scathing inquiry into three NHS scandals emerged. It outlined how patients were “dismissed” and “overlooked” when they raised serious concerns about some medical treatments.

“Avoidable harm”

The review, chaired by baroness Julia Cumberlege, examined how the health service responded to concerns over three treatments:

  • Pelvic mesh implants (linked to crippling, life-changing complications including chronic pain, infections and loss of sex life),
  • The anti-epilepsy drug sodium valproate (linked to physical malformations, autism and developmental delay in many children when prescribed for their mothers during pregnancy)
  • Hormone pregnancy tests such as Primodos, which have possible links to birth defects and miscarriages.

It 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.

“Very disappointing”

Read on...

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The government gave an interim response to the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review earlier this year. But campaigners say ministers are yet to respond fully.

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.

Sodium valproate poses risks to pregnancy

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

Meanwhile, it has established a data registry 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. The list includes spina bifida and cleft palate, heart problems and limb defects. Meanwhile, 40% of children will have a developmental delay or autism.

Sling the Mesh

Meanwhile MP Emma Hardy and Labour’s shadow health minister Alex Norris are set to lead a back bench debate around pelvic mesh today, 8 July. Pelvic mesh is a woven synthetic netting which is implanted into the pelvis for various conditions including incontinence and organ prolapse. 

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.

Story via PA News Agency.

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