Health minister shocked and angry at harrowing new evidence

The report by Baroness Julia Cumberlege revealed tens of thousands of women and children suffered avoidable harm because of the continued use of epilepsy drug sodium valproate in pregnancy, hormone pregnancy test Primodus and pelvic mesh implants.

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Health minister Nadine Dorries has told MPs she was left “shocked but incredibly angry” at what the “harrowing” evidence revealed by the Cumberlege inquiry published yesterday.

Responding to the inquiry’s final report Nadine Dorries MP, herself a former nurse, said the government would need time to respond to the recommendations but she said: “I have watched and read some of the testimonies. They left me shocked, but also incredibly angry. And most of all determined to make the changes that are needed to protect women in the future.”

She said the report “makes for harrowing reading, every page makes clear the pain and suffering that has been felt by so many patients and their families”.

The patient safety minister said the healthcare system had to do better in the future: “The task now is to establish a quicker and more compassionate way to address issues of patient harm when they arise.

“We must ensure that the system as a whole is vigilant in spotting safety concerns.

“We must make sure that different voices are invited to the table and we must also make sure that patients and their families have a clear pathway to get better answers, and a resolution.”

She also told MPs she believed there was an “unintentional bias” against women in healthcare when women raise safety concerns and she pointed to repeated health scandals affecting “women only issues.”

She added: “I know that there will be strong feelings from across the House about this report, and that honourable members will be eager to hear a fuller response. However, it is imperative for the sake of those who have suffered so greatly that we give this review the full consideration, it absolutely deserves.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who established the Cumberlege inquiry in 2018 told MPs: “I commissioned this report because I knew that many lives have been ruined because we didn’t act quickly enough to deal with problems in these three areas, but I have to say the results are far more shocking and disturbing than I ever imagined.”

He warned the issue was far bigger than the three drugs and devices looked at by the inquiry and urged ministers to support the central recommendation of a patient safety commissioner.

Mr Hunt also urged his successor as health secretary Matt Hancock to respond to the inquiry before the end of September.

Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davy said: “We want to see the conclusions implemented as soon as possible. We want to see the compensation for the women and their adult children, but I also want to see criminal charges brought against the real perpetrators of this scandal. The cover up; the suppression of the evidence of harm; the marketing and sale of a drug, which Shearing and Bayer knew was dangerous and would result in miscarriages and birth defects.”

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