“Dismissed, overlooked and ignored for decades” – Campaigning MP welcomes review into women let down by the health service.
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP, Cat Smith has welcomed a landmark report into three NHS scandals that were ignored and dismissed by the health authorities for decades.
The review into patient concerns over the anti-epilepsy drug sodium valproate, the use of pelvic mesh implants, and hormone pregnancy test Primodos concluded patients had come to “avoidable harm.”
Ms Smith, the chair of the all-party group campaigning for justice on Sodium Valporate in pregnancy says she’s relieved patients have finally been listened to following Baroness Cumberlege’s review of Medicines and Medical Devices Safety.
“All those affected by harmful medicines and medical devices have been waiting far too long for this moment, but justice is finally near, thanks to a tireless campaigning effort,” said Ms Smith. “Baroness Cumberlege has overseen the development of an excellent report, and its recommendations can make a difference for medicines and medical device safety. It must now be followed by action. The Government needs to immediately apologise on behalf of the healthcare system to all the families who have been affected by sodium valproate, Primodos and pelvic mesh and set up a taskforce to implement the recommendations.”
In the report Baroness Cumberledge wrote, “I have conducted many reviews and inquiries over the years, but I have never encountered anything like this; the intensity of suffering experienced by so many families, and the fact that they have endured it for decades. Much of this suffering was entirely avoidable, caused and compounded by failings in the health system itself.”
Cat’s constituent Janet Williams from Pilling has campaigned for decades for recognition that Sodium Valproate prescribed to and taken by pregnant women led to serious and distressing neurodevelopmental conditions in their children. Her own two children were born with health problems after she was prescribed the drug.
“This drug has been prescribed since 1973 and whilst our concerns continued to be dismissed thousands of children went on to be born with birth defects because their mothers were unaware of the risk,” said Ms Williams. “I’m delighted by the findings of this review – but it has taken too long for us to get here. I hope lessons are learnt.”
Cat first met Janet Williams within weeks of becoming an MP and has worked alongside Janet and others to get justice for them and the thousands of families around the country affected.
“At first I found it really difficult to get my head around the fact that drugs were still being prescribed to women that could cause birth defects,” said Cat. “I thought that the thalidomide scandal that I’d read about in history books had put an end to that kind of scandal happening again. It was a real shock to realise that sodium valproate had led to around 20,000 babies being born in the UK with birth defects. I’m in awe of the energy and persistence Janet and other campaigners have shown in fighting to be heard. This must never happen again.”