NICOLA Sturgeon has said there is no evidence of a “professional conspiracy” against an expert surgeon from the US helping women who have suffered painful and debilitating side effects from vaginal mesh surgery.

Speaking at First Minister’s questions, Tory leader Jackson Carlaw pressed the First Minister over what was being done to help those women. 

Dr Dionysios Veronikis had planned to come to Scotland to treat those affected but cancelled his trip.

Carlaw said that was largely due to a "co-ordinated attempt to block him by powerful people in the NHS and the medical hierarchy".

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He said: "The clear suspicion of many is that there is a professional and institutional campaign to frustrate Dr Veronikis's involvement.

“It is the view of many that establishment figures in the NHS are trying to protect their own backs and I exclude any blame or suggestion of it from the Cabinet Secretary personally here."

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He added that leading Scottish mesh expert, Dr Wael Agur, had told him how "surgeons here felt deeply threatened by Dr Veronikis' offer to visit Scotland" and that "no doubt there is a professional conspiracy against his visit".

The Scottish Tory leader called on the First Minister to intervene, saying: "If this is true it is an outrage."

Sturgeon said she was "genuinely" not aware of evidence to back that up.

She said: "If there is evidence I would certainly want to see that and be in a position to take action."

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The First Minister also insisted the Scottish Government still wanted Dr Veroikis to come to Scotland to treat women here.

But she said a visit by Scottish medics to him in the US, that would be necessary for that to happen, "regrettably" had to be postponed.

Scottish doctors had been due to visit the American surgeon in August as part of the conditions necessary for him to be able to treat patients in the UK, but this was cancelled due to clinical commitments.

Responding to a question from Richard Leonard, Sturgeon apologised to anyone impacted by issues following treatment with the NHS.

The Scottish Labour leader then read from a letter from Dr Veronikis which claimed patients were being misled about the surgery they’ve had.

He added: "Dr Veronikis offered these women the first glimpse of hope that they might get their lives back.

"The fact is First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Health looked Scotland's mesh-injured women in the eye and she gave them a commitment to a course of action that could give some of these women their lives back.

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"The world-leading, pioneering surgeon, who the Health Secretary invited to come here, now feels that the officials and senior surgeons in Scotland, working for our NHS accountable to your government, obstructed this course of action.

"And at the centre of all this are women left languishing in pain. So your government has lost the confidence of these mesh-injured women, your Health Secretary appears to have lost control of this situation."

Sturgeon conceded that there were issues that needed to be resolved and that the Scottish Government was “determined” to do so.

She added: "I want any patient who considers it best, where there is a clinical view for them to be treated by someone like Dr Veronikis, for that to happen.

"I obviously cannot stipulate that he agrees to come here but if he's willing to reconsider his position then the steps are in process to fulfil the requirements to allow that to happen."