The UK Department of Health has issued an update on PiP breast implants scandal which struck in late 2011. Authorities have identified an additional 7,000 women in the UK that may be in need to replacement or removal of their implants, and have confirmed this should be covered under the same NHS arrangements made earlier in the year.

The additional patients have been identified from those who had surgery before 2011, where previously, the French Authorities who first investigated their local company, believed only those implants after 2001 were suspected of containing unauthorised silicone gel.

It is generally recommended that implants are replaced every ten years, so many of these women may have already elected to replace their implants, or done so under NHS care. The NHS Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, continues to advise that there is not enough evidence to recommend routine removal of PiP breast implants They state on their website that :

“However, we have always recommended that if women are concerned they should speak to their surgeon or GP. The NHS will support removal of PIP implants if, after this consultation, the patient still has concerns and with her doctor she decides that it is right to do so. The NHS will replace the implants if the original operation was done by the NHS. We expect the private sector to do the same for their patients.

We believe that private providers have a duty to take steps to provide appropriate after-care to patients they have treated. If a clinic that implanted PiP implants no longer exists or refuses to care for their patient – where that patient is entitled to NHS services, the NHS will support the removal of PiP implants where clinically necessary. All women should be offered the same care, whether they had their implants before or after 2001.”

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“The French regulator has confirmed this week that more women may be affected by the criminal activity of the French breast implant manufacturer PiP. These women are the victims of a fraudulent company and I know this situation is causing a huge amount of anxiety. I want to reassure those affected by the news today that they will be provided with all the help they need from the NHS.

We are still working to get private clinics to live up to their responsibilities and look after their patients. Our commitment is to ensure support for all women from the NHS if needed; we will continue to press for the same standard of care or redress from private providers.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer said:

“The expert group advises that there is no evidence to suggest that every woman with a PiP implant should have them removed. But we know this is a worrying time for them and want them to be able to see a GP or specialist to get reassurance and have them removed if necessary. All women who had the implants put in on the NHS will be able to have them removed and replaced by the NHS. We expect private clinics to offer their patients the same care. If they refuse, the NHS will provide advice, a scan and, if necessary, remove the implants.

Private patients will not, however, be able to have their implants replaced on the NHS unless this is clinically necessary. We will be placing adverts in the weekend papers again to inform all women with PiP implants about the advice from the experts and how they can get help if they are concerned. I have also written to GPs today to remind them that we want them to help women with PiP implants.”

The Department of Health is advising women with PiP implants to take three steps to reassure themselves. The steps are to:

  • Find out if they have PiP implants by checking their medical notes. This information can be accessed for free from clinics or through GPs. Most women who had PiP implants on the NHS should already have received a letter … anyone who received an implant between 1997 and 2000 will be contacted in the near future.
  • Speak to their GP or surgeon. Women who had PiP implants on the NHS should speak to their specialist or GP and women who had them done privately should speak to their clinic.
  • Agree what’s best for you. Women should get advice on whether or not they need a scan then discuss appropriate action with their doctor.

Patients have been told that the NHS will do removals for free if the original surgery was done on the NHS. However, if the original operation was performed in a private clinic, the patient will need to speak to their clinic to see if they will replace them for free.

Further information is available at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Breast-implants/Pages/PIP.

The Chief Medical Officer has written again to all GPs to set out what they should do if a private patient with PiP implants asks for their help, and to inform them about the change in advice from the French authorities. The letter is available on the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk

Written by Rupert Shepherd