First Do No Harm

First Do No Harm

A review ordered by the government in 2018 into pelvic mesh implants, hormonal pregnancy tests and an anti-epilepsy drug that harmed unborn babies has criticised the NHS and the government for a culture of denial and a failure to listen to patients' concerns.

The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, led by Baroness Cumberlege looked into:

  1. Pelvic, and particularly vaginal mesh implants, following widespread use in treating urinary incontinence and prolapse;
  2. Primodos, a hormone pregnancy test used between the 1950s and 1978 which caused damage to unborn babies; and
  3. Sodium valproate, a drug used to treat epilepsy, which also caused harm to unborn babies.

The review, entitled "First Do No Harm", collected evidence from over 700 women and their families, covering treatment provided to them over many years. It criticised the NHS and the government for failing to acknowledge symptoms and problems reported by women over decades, often dismissing them as "women's problems" and leaving women traumatised, intimidated and confused. The review also found that much of the harm to patients was avoidable, and called on the government to make a proper apology.

The review made a number of recommendations, including:

  1. The appointment of an independent patient safety commissioner;
  2. Discretionary payment schemes to meet the financial care costs of women affected;
  3. The creation of a redress agency to assist in resolving future disputes; and
  4. The expansion of the General Medical Council register to include a list of doctors' financial interests.

The government has indicated it will respond after considering the review in detail.

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