Medical Negligence
By Conal McGarrity
Latest News

Over 700 Patients Contacted Amid Fears of Ineffective Contraceptive Implants

Patients Contacted

752 women have been contacted by the Belfast and South Eastern Trust’s in relation to contraceptive implants which have been fitted between October 2017 and August 2020. There are reports that some women have become pregnant despite the presence of the implant. This has understandably led to questions being raised about the effectiveness of the implant.

At present there is no official patient recall. However, women who have had the implant inserted are being contacted by the Trusts and further investigations are underway. This contraceptive implant is inserted under the skin in a woman’s upper arm and is designed to prevent pregnancy for at least three years. Women with the implant have been asked to check if their implants are still visibly in place.

The Belfast Trust has released a statement advising that this is just a precautionary review and that those affected will have the opportunity to book an appointment for further examination.

Complications with Contraceptive Implants

The use of contraceptive implants has become commonplace in recent years. The procedure involves a doctor inserting a small rod into the arm which slowly releases progestogen into the bloodstream over a period of three years. This is generally a straightforward procedure and most women do not suffer significant side effects.

In some circumstances there is a small risk that the implant can move around the body although in most cases the implant can be located and removed. However, there are cases where an implant has not been located and removal of the implant is therefore more complicated.

The most common complaint from patients remains that their contraceptive implant did not prevent them from getting pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy can be extremely distressing, particularly when specific steps have been taken to prevent this outcome. A variety of factors including financial restraints and existing health problems may come into the decision to have a contraceptive implant fitted.

It is, therefore, vital that the standard of care provided to women is of the highest possible standard.

Impact of Covid-19 on Contraceptive Services 

This news comes against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic which has made accessing contraceptive services much more difficult. Lengthy waiting lists, reduced opening hours and service closures have led to thousands of women’s sexual health being overlooked.

In addition, the various national lockdown’s have affected access to the morning- after pill which could result in an increase in unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

The pandemic has certainly had a detrimental impact on contraceptive services. However, the provision of contraception and sexual health services had already been significantly stretched and under funded prior to Covid-19. Failure to address these issues will inevitably lead to a breakdown of trust between patients and healthcare providers.

How We Can Help

The investigation is ongoing, and the outcome will be anxiously awaited by the 752 women who have been contacted. If it arises that there were issues with the manner in which implants were fitted and this has resulted in an unwanted pregnancy or other issues, then the affected women may be able to make a claim in negligence against the Trust or initiate a public inquiry.

Alternatively, in circumstances where the implant itself is defective women may be entitled to make a claim directly against the manufacturer of the product.

A full and proper review is required and if proper procedures have not been followed then the affected patients will be entitled to explore legal remedies. 

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