Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, recently met with people affected by the sodium valproate scandal to reiterate his support for the Cumberlege Review recommendations to be implemented in full.
Baroness Cumberlege’s Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review looked into the use of Primodos, a hormonal pregnancy test; the use of sodium valproate during pregnancy; and the use of pelvic mesh implants.
These medicines and medical devices have caused extreme physical, developmental and emotional harm to tens of thousands of women and their families.
In July 2020, the Cumberlege review published its report, clearly concluding that victims of the 3 medical scandals were exposed to the avoidable risk of harm when they did not need to be and were affected adversely by poor or indifferent care. It found that affected patients suffered at the hands of clinicians who did not listen or chose not to do so, and were abandoned by a system that failed to recognise and act to remedy its mistakes.
It sets out nine major recommendations to improve the help and support to those who have suffered after taking Primodos, sodium valproate during pregnancy, and using pelvic mesh implants, and to reduce the risk of avoidable harm from medicines and medical devices in the future.
Crucially, the report calls on the Government to establish a discretionary scheme to provide financial redress for those who have suffered the stress, anxiety, psychological harm and toll of fighting for recognition in relation to the three scandals. This is partly in acknowledgement of the fact that it would be extremely difficult for many victims to obtain compensation through litigation, due to the high cost barriers to funding legal action against the Government, and the emotional toll of having to go through such a process.
2 years on since the report was published, the Government have acted on some recommendations – issuing an apology to the affected women and their families, making provisions for a patient safety commissioner, setting up specialist centres for the care of those with complications from mesh implants, and making changes to how doctors’ conflicts of interest are reported.
But the Government have failed to make much further progress, and have refused to establish a redress agency for those harmed by such medicines and medical devices, or to set up a separate scheme to meet the costs of providing additional care and support to those who have experienced avoidable harm.
“The publication of the Cumberlege review was a real moment of hope for families affected by the Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh scandals. But 2 years on, the Government have made little progress, failing to implement the recommendations in full and refusing to set up a financial redress scheme.
“In denying proper justice to those who have been affected, the Government are prolonging and exacerbating the psychological harm caused by these medical scandals. They must urgently set up an independent redress agency for the families, and fully implement the remaining recommendations from the Cumberlege review.”