THE Scottish Government has set out plans for a compensation scheme for women who had to pay for mesh implant removal surgery.

MSPs took part in a Stage 1 debate on the principles of the Transvaginal Mesh Removal (Cost Reimbursement) (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood on Wednesday.

The Bill has cross-party support, and will establish a compensation scheme for women who had to have surgery in the private sector to remove the mesh.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf opened the debate, and apologised to survivors who have lost trust in the NHS after their experiences.

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Yousaf said the Bill is “narrow” with a “limited function”, but that the impact on those who need it would be “very significant indeed”.

The Stage 1 motion passed unanimously with no objections.

There has been a moratorium on vaginal mesh surgery in Scotland since 2018 after a number of women reported suffering painful and debilitating side effects.

Yousaf told the chamber that a “substantial number” of women in Scotland suffered pain and distress as a result of the procedure.

He said: “Many of us have heard directly from women about the physical symptoms but also the mental distress they suffered, which was often made worse because they felt that their experiences were simply not taken seriously enough when they sought help.”

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Yousaf (above) added: “I completely understand that there are a number of women who have lost trust in our NHS.

“I will work hard to rebuild that, but I also know, from having talked to a number of mesh survivors, that they feel that trust is broken beyond repair. And I am sorry for that.”

The legislation will give ministers the power to reimburse costs borne by women who had to have private mesh removal surgery.

Such surgeries cost between £16,000 and £23,000. However, Yousaf clarified that there was no cap on the amount that can be claimed.

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Opposition MSPs raised concerns about women who had mesh implanted in Scotland, but then moved out of the country or had their surgery outside of Scotland.

Yousaf said that the government agrees “in principle” to the concerns and will table an amendment at Stage 2 of the Bill.

There were also issues raised about the cut off date of July 12 2021 whether or not it should be extended.

The government will clarify its position before the second stage of the Bill, Yousaf added.

SNP MSP Gillian Martin spoke on behalf of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in her role as Convenor.

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Mesh implants are made from polypropylene and caused horrific complications for patients 

She said that the Bill can’t undo the “physical or psychological trauma” suffered by mesh survivors and urged the Health Secretary to reconsider the part of the Bill which states claimants must be a resident in Scotland.

Martin said that the number of women who may apply for reimbursement is unknown and therefore legislation must allow for varying circumstances.

She said: “The committee believes that if even one more woman can be helped that the Bill should be amended to include all those women seeking reimbursement for mesh removal surgery who originally had their mesh implanted by the NHS in Scotland and that should be irrespective of where they were living when the mesh removal surgery was arranged.”

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Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay welcomed Yousaf’s commitment to an amendment on the residency concerns.

Mackay called for a reimbursement scheme “flexible enough to ensure no one is unfairly penalised”.

She added: “Many of the women who paid for their own mesh removal did not anticipate being reimbursed.

“For many this will mean that they no longer have food receipts or proof of taxi journeys for example.”

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 Gillian Mackay also called for the residency aspect to be reconsidered 

Tory MSP Sandesh Gulhane said it was rare for parties across the chamber to agree, and that the “least” they could do is make sure women are properly compensated.

He set out some of the horrific complications which can come from mesh surgery, which he dubbed a “gynaecological scandal”.

Many patients suffered nerve damage, organ perforation, and some even died as a result of complications.

Gulhane added: “Over a 20-year period, in Scotland alone, over 20,000 women underwent mesh surgery and thousands are believed to have suffered in varying degrees from the effects.

“Some 600 women have resorted to taking legal action.”

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Carol Mochan, for Scottish Labour, also signalled support for an amendment to the Bill to deal with the residency aspect.

She said: “The last thing anyone wants is for us to end up with another situation where these women feel ignored by the system or indeed short-changed.”

LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “In my short career as an MSP I cannot really remember another issue which I think captures the universal support, concern and horror of this chamber as this particular issue when it comes to domestic health scandals.”

The Bill passed Stage 1 unanimously, and a second motion tabled by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to allow the government to agree to any expenditure which results from the Bill was also passed unanimously.