Guidance from health watchdog NICE has said vaginal mesh can now be offered again by the NHS if certain conditions are met.
Procedures using vaginal mesh to treat incontinence in women were stopped in July 2018 as a safety ban was put in place by Baroness Cumberledge, following her communication with women who were injured by the mesh.
The transvaginal tape (TVT) has been widely used in procedures across Europe and the US for more than 15 years and has left thousands of women suffering life-changing complications, with some left unable to walk, work or have sex.
Advice released by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) acknowledged there is a public health concern regarding the mesh, but said evidence revealed there are some benefits of its use in surgery and “limited evidence” on the long-term harm the procedure could possibly cause.
In the release, NICE stated: “The benefits and risks of each type of treatment are laid out to ensure every woman is fully informed. Where the evidence is limited, this is also highlighted.
“There are a number of procedures recommended by NICE, including mesh procedures,” they added.
Often the NHS’s services are expected to listen to NICE guidance when planning and delivering care, however, are not compelled to act on every recommendation made – creating uncertainty and scope for female prolapse sufferers to be injured in the future.
The guidance suggested women should consider non-surgical options such as physiotherapy before opting for the mesh surgery to resolve stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse – commonly caused by giving birth.
But chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Surgical Mesh, Labour MP Owen Smith, thinks affected women are being ignored.
“While I am pleased that NICE is now advising against mesh as a first-line treatment for incontinence, the new guidelines fail to clearly outline that mesh should only be used once conservative methods have failed and when non-mesh surgery has failed,” he said.
However, Mr Smith said he was “deeply disappointed” that the guidelines appear to disregard mesh-injured women’s experiences with NICE stating there is no long-term evidence of the adverse effects.
He added: “Thousands of women have faced life-changing injuries following mesh surgery and they must not be ignored.”
An independent investigation into the use of transvaginal mesh in procedures is being led by Baroness Julia Cumberledge and has yet to come to a conclusion – sparking some controversy that NICE should have waited for the results before releasing its new guidelines.