Why is there STILL no compensation scheme for victims?
By JOHN NAISH
dmg media (UK)
Nine years ago, Karen Preater, a mother of three, underwent what doctors told her would be a simple operation to fix the urinary incontinence she had developed after the birth of her third child. instead, the surgery in January 2014, left her in such crippling agony that she was taking up to 20 painkillers a day and she had to give up her £40,000-a-year job in sales. The surgery involved inserting TVT mesh into her pelvis. Over the past 15 years, evidence has mounted to show how, in some women, the mesh can cause serious harm to nerves and tissues. now, despite an official report recommending a compensation scheme for women injured by mesh, campaigners say women affected currently have no hope of financial redress other than by fighting through the courts, which can subject them to more trauma and distress. Mrs Preater’s case highlights the problem. Last year, an nHS authority that she took action against responded by spying on her private life, and accusing her of behaviour that could have landed her in jail. Mrs Preater, of Rhyl, north Wales, underwent the TVT procedure aged 37. Having been assured it would require only one night in hospital, she woke from the surgery in agonising pain in her hip and left thigh. ‘After eight days in hospital, i was given a big bag of painkillers and sent home to get on with it,’ she says. ‘i was left needing crutches and subsequently could only walk with a stick.’ ever since, she’s had to selfcatheterise five to six times a day and takes seven medications for pain and depression. ‘i feel like i have been handed the “grow old before your time” card, and my kids see it as well.’ Mrs Preater’s only chance of financial redress was to take legal action against the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, her health authority. in 2020, they responded by subjecting her to covert video surveillance, which was used to accuse her of fraud. Their lawyers alleged she’d faked the extent of her pain, lied about her inability to work and about her need for care, accusing Mrs Preater, in legal jargon, of committing an act of fundamental dishonesty. They also alleged she had a ‘ thriving’ beauty therapy business which she’d kept from everyone during the case. in fact, it emerged in court that Mrs Preater had offered beauty treatments only to friends and contacts, as a form of occupational therapy. She’d even admitted in her legal claim that she was offering such treatments and optimistically hoped one day she might make up to £8,000 a year from it. The judge found Mrs Preater had not sought to deceive any party and should be fully compensated for her suffering, awarding her over £ 970,000 including her court costs. Mrs Preater’s lawyer, Grant incles, from Russell- Cooke solicitors, told Good Health: ‘i have no doubt that fundamental dishonesty will be used against mesh-injured women again, by NHS trusts, to prevent damages costs rising.’ even where health authorities don’t resort to allegations of fundamental dishonesty, ‘it is cruel to expect women to go through the litigation route’, warned Baroness Julia Cumberlege, in a letter to the Health Select Committee last December. The former Conservative health minister led an inquiry into mesh injuries, and her report in 2020 included a call for a redress scheme for the victims. ‘This would not involve going to court and proving negligence but would instead provide support, including financial payments, on a no-fault basis,’ she told Good Health. Currently, women have to resort to the courts. More than 400 women in england are pursuing claims via Thompson Solicitors. Solicitor Madeleine Pinschof says their claimants have been left with ‘life-changing injuries’. BUT Kath Sansom, the founder of the campaigning group, Sling The Mesh (STM), told Good Health the legal route is strewn with difficulties. ‘For example, lawyers and judges want expert medical witnesses to give opinions on the women’s injuries,’ she says. ‘But these experts are most often either mesh- implant surgeons or their colleagues, who vigorously deny there is any evidence of damage or disability. ‘Many women are too stressed or ill to pursue legal claims,’ Ms Sansom adds. ‘ Those who get to court, despite their emotional distress, are often horrendously discredited by lawyers, who say their pain is only due to anxiety or mental-health problems.’ ‘in one case, a woman who was sexually abused as a child