The Women’s Equality party’s candidate for London mayor has been forced to pull out of the race after suffering complications from a vaginal mesh implant.
The party claims Prof Sue Black has been a victim of entrenched “health inequalities” affecting thousands of women and that it will be campaigning to get the mesh permanently banned in the UK.
Black, a leading computer scientist and government adviser said: “I’m really frustrated because I can’t go on to do what I wanted to. It’s devastating. We need to make sure women know how detrimental this can be for their health.”
The WEP leader, Mandu Reid, will take over as the party’s candidate for the mayoral election on 7 May.
After a trans-vaginal tape implant in 2005, following the birth of her fourth child, Black said the incontinence she had been suffering from was treated immediately.
Ten years later, symptoms including pelvic pain, lumps over her body and severe thirst in the middle of the night, eventually led to the diagnosis she was suffering complications from the mesh having shrunk and hardened. Medical scans showed it was cutting through her urethra.
She had one operation to partially remove the mesh 18 months ago and another before Christmas, but the process left her drained and suffering from anaemia.
“I feel like I’m getting my energy back having been incapacitated for a month. I could hardly walk upstairs, but doing something like running for mayor of London – you’ve got to be on top form.
“Since it was a partial removal I’ve got to have another operation at some point. So that will be three operations I didn’t need to have. I wouldn’t choose this for anybody.”
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Black, who is a professor of computer science at Durham University, is a longterm campaigner for women’s rights and first came to London to escape an abusive relationship. By the age of 25 she was a single mum with three small children and was living in a women’s refuge. After taking an education access course as a night-class, she then studied for her degree and PhD before entering academia.
She was selected as the Women’s Equality party candidate for mayor last summer.
According to the NHS, between 2008-09 and 2016-17, 100,516 patients had a reported tape insertion procedure for stress urinary incontinence and a further 27,016 patients had a mesh fitted for urogynaecological prolapse. Hundreds of women are now getting them removed.
The products were “aggressively hustled” by manufacturers into widespread use from the late 1990s, according to an investigation by the British Medical Journal.
Vaginal mesh is banned from use in the UK over safety concerns although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says it could be reintroduced in very specific circumstances. The Medicines and Medical Devices bill announced in the Queen’s speech last December also has campaigners concerned about the potential for re-adoption.
The government said it would “capitalise on opportunities to ensure that our NHS and patients can have faster access to innovative medicines”, which left Reid concerned there could be a relaxation of regulations.
She said: “What has happened to Sue shouldn’t have happened to anyone but it highlights why having the Women’s Equality party is so important and why we need a seat at the table.
“This is a political issue – not a niche health issue. This affects thousands of women. New Zealand, Australia and the US have banned vaginal mesh so we should also be going for an outright ban.”
The City Hall project worker, who helped deliver the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games said her campaign to be mayor of London will focus on lobbying for the establishment of a women’s health institute in London.
“We need to get over our squeamishness on issues like vaginal mesh and make London the vanguard of health inequalities that women are facing,” Reid said.
Tackling domestic violence and London’s significant gender pay gap will also be her key campaigning issues.