The Guardian’s science correspondent Hannah Devlin has scooped a coveted prize in the Association of British Science Writers awards for her investigation into the vaginal mesh scandal.
Her report exposing NHS data on how thousands of women have undergone surgery to have vaginal mesh implants removed won in the category of best investigative journalism.
The figures Devlin unearthed last August suggested that about one in 15 women fitted with the most common type of mesh support later required surgery to have it extracted due to complications.
In its citation the judging panel described Devlin’s work as “a persistent investigation that uncovered an important story of public interest that might never otherwise have come to light”.
Devlin’s reporting raised awkward questions about the sponsors of the awards Johnson & Johnson, the medical devices multinational which is believed to produce the majority of vaginal mesh products used in the UK.
The company is fighting a major class action in Australia and could face legal proceedings in the UK.
At the time Johnson & Johnson said: “We empathise with those patients who have had complications associated with pelvic mesh procedures, but we believe it is important to recognise that their experiences do not speak for the vast majority of women whose lives have been improved through treatment with pelvic mesh devices.”
Devlin thanked the women who shared their stories of how they had been affected.The association also awarded a posthumous life achievement prize to Steve Connor, the former science editor of the Independent who died in 2017.
His award was presented to his widow, Ines Connor, by Tim Radford, his former counterpart at the Guardian.
The chair of the judging panel, Mićo Tatalović, praised the calibre of the record 300 entries. “The sheer number of entries and their overall high quality did, of course, make judging tricky, but I am confident the panel has made the right choices,” he said.
A full list of the winners is published on the association’s website.