The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that there will be a retrospective audit of complications arising from vaginal mesh implants in England.

Vaginal mesh implants are plastic mesh strips which are surgically implanted into the pelvis in order to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. The meshes are intended to be permanent once they are inserted and so it can be very difficult, and potentially dangerous, to reverse the procedure once it has been undertaken.

There has been growing concern in the UK and internationally in recent years regarding complications which can arise from vaginal mesh. Reported complications include chronic pain, infection, mesh erosion through the vagina or into organs, nerve damage, difficulties with walking, urinary problems and inability to have sexual intercourse.

In December 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provided new guidelines which recommended that vaginal mesh should only be used for research purposes when treating pelvic organ prolapse. New Zealand and Australia have also introduced restrictions on the use of mesh implants. However, campaigners have been calling for a full suspension of this this type of surgery until an in-depth review has been completed.

According to NHS England figures, over 100,000 vaginal mesh procedures have taken place in the last 10 years. Some reports estimate that severe side effects are experienced by between 10-20% of women who have mesh implants; however, there is currently a lack of data regarding complications and how frequently they occur, and it is hoped that the audit, which is due to be concluded in April 2018, will assist to address this.

Owen Smith MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on surgical mesh implants, has commented: "I'm delighted that the Government has listened to my concerns and has now agreed to undertake this audit to get a better understanding of complications related to mesh surgery. I hope the audit will provide crucial answers about the proportion of women adversely affected."

If you have concerns about treatment which you have received, or that you were not properly warned about the potential side-effects, please contact Lucy Habgood on lucy.habgood@freeths.co.uk or 01865781093, for a free and confidential discussion about your options.