After the Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) breast implant scare nearly 3,000 women have been seen by NHS specialists, of which over 1,000 have had scans and 67 have opted to have the implants removed, according to Department of Health statistics.
So far only 13 patients have actually had the implants 'explanted' by the NHS. The PIP breast implants were found to contain industrial-grade silicone. However private clinics were responsible for putting in the implants, made by fraudulent French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), in 12 of those cases.
The cost of surgery alone for the 67 former private clinic clients who have resorted to the NHS for removal is likely to surpass £100,000. When the other costs are added up - at least 2,860 GP appointments, the same number of consultant appointments, and over 1,100 scans - the total bill to the taxpayer so far could approach £500,000. The figures show only about one in 15 former private clinic clients who have undergone NHS scans to see if their implants have ruptured, has opted for NHS removal.
Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, claimed, “This appears to show that these women are getting the reassurance they need from speaking to an expert or having a scan.” The Department of Health has sought to keep costs down by only offering removal on the NHS. Although Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said last month that women with PIPs would be able to get them removed for free even if they had not ruptured, he made clear replacement was never going to be part of the NHS offer.
However, Fazel Fatah, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, (Baaps), disagreed, describing the low removal rate as “entirely unsurprising”. “It's clear that only very few are opting for removal without replacement,” he said. Taking out implants and not replacing them would leave breasts “smaller and droopier” than before the initial operation, he explained. For women who had opted for enlargement in the first place because of a problem with their own body image, this would be unbearable, he argued. “The statistics demonstrate that the great majority of women with PIP implants will have to depend on the private sector for the replacement of these faulty devices…There may be some who prefer to leave them in for a time while they decide on their options, but they're unlikely to be many,” he said.
Mr Fatah added, “These figures show that a significant proportion of patients have not had the help and reassurance they need - and deserve - from private clinics.” But Sally Taber, director of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, responded, “The constant implication that private clinics are refusing to support their PIP patients, is unfair and untrue. The issue is not a lack of desire to help but a lack of resources – they are struggling with the number of patients that are affected by this situation that was caused by a fraudulent manufacturer of implants and overlooked by all the regulatory bodies in Europe, including the MHRA. From the outset private clinics have been contacting all PIP patients as a priority, advising them and doing their utmost to work towards a solution.”
For example hundreds of Scottish women who had faulty PIP breast implants fitted in private clinics are facing a repair bill of more than £1.1million. Sunday Express reveal 470 women paid for the procedure with the Transform group in 2004 and 2005, long before the dangers were known. Transform says it will provide free consultation, scans and removal, but charges a “no profit” fee of £2,500 to replace the implants and repair any damage – potentially leading to a total bill of £1.175million.
No women have received PIP implants on the NHS in Scotland, although NHS doctors will remove implants fitted abroad or by private firms that are now out of business. A Scottish Government spokesman said, “We expect private surgery providers to take responsibility for their patients. We encourage any woman who is worried to contact their surgeon or healthcare provider. NHS Inform will also be able to answer questions.” Another firm, Spire Healthcare, which fitted more than 800 PIP implants at two clinics in Edinburgh, will only provide free like-for-like replacements “where the surgeon feels it is reasonable”.
On Friday morning Sir Kent Woods, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reiterated the organization’s stance that PIP implants appeared to be no more dangerous than those from reputed manufacturers. However, he agreed that women should be able to have them out on “compassionate” rather than “risk / benefit grounds”.