The NHS has adopted what has been described as “a novel protocol” to deal with medical negligence cases involving traumatic complications following mesh implant surgery, in anticipation of further legal claims.
The protocol concerns claims relating to pioneering operations carried out privately by consultant surgeon Anthony Dixon, using mesh implants used to fix bowel problems in women, commonly following childbirth – so called mesh rectopexy.
The protocol operates as a form of alternative dispute resolution, according to catastrophic injury specialist law firm Fletchers Solicitors, which is representing a number of women bringing the claims.
The firm said the protocol would bring “benefits on both sides”.
It continued: “It will reduce the overall costs to the NHS of considering these claims, but will also ensure that claims are dealt with promptly, with clients expected to receive an initial decision on their case within a matter of months of notification.
Amy Hughes, a Fletchers litigation executive working on the cases, said: “Surgeries involving mesh have come under intense scrutiny due to the high number of complications associated with them.”
Recognised as a pioneer of bowel repair surgery, Mr Dixon had built up a strong reputation in this field that saw patients travelling from around the UK and further afield to seek his expertise.
But, according to Fletchers, complaints started to increase, with some patients claiming they were subjected to overly complicated procedures without being fully informed of all the risks.
Investigations into his practices, particularly around the mesh rectopexy and Stapled Transanal Resection of the Rectum (STARR) operations he performed are currently ongoing by Bristol NHS Trust.
The firm said that, in August 2017, the General Medical Council also placed restrictions on his practice, preventing him from carrying out STARR procedures unitl November 2018.
In a quote given to The Guardian last November, Mr Dixon said he was unable to comment on specific allegations due to patient confidentiality.
He added: “As with any surgical procedure, there may be complications but I would like to reassure patients that the overwhelming majority of operations I have completed have been successful.”
Other law firms that say they are acting for former patients include Irwin Mitchell, Thompsons, Leigh Day and Michael Lewin.
Claimants wanting to benefit from the protocol have until 4pm on 1 August 2018 to notify their claim.
Surgical mesh implants for a range of procedures have provoked legal action and a pressure group, Sling the Mesh. In November, we reported that a group action for mesh-related complications was growing rapidly.