Cosmetic surgery firms refuse to take out 'toxic' implants as they are accused of putting profits before patient safety
Britain's biggest private cosmetic surgery firms have been accused of putting profit before patients by refusing to remove potentially toxic breast implants.
Many of the major clinics that profited by fitting cut-price PIP implants are trying to deflect the blame on to the Government.
Three private chains – Transform, the Harley Medical Group and the Hospital Group – have ignored the Health Secretary’s call for them to take out PIP implants for free from all women who ask for the operation.
Faulty: Major clinics fitted the cut price PIP implants, pictured, to make more money, but now they are trying to deflect blame onto the Government
A fourth group, Linia, says it will remove implants ‘where appropriate’. The company accused the Government of dodging its responsibilities and added that any care it gave will be better than that provided by the NHS, which it said might botch the operations.
Together, the four businesses account for 60 per cent of the 50,000 PIP implants used in Britain.
With the NHS pledging to step in when private firms refuse to co-operate, the stance taken by the ‘big four’ could cost the taxpayer millions.
It is estimated that if the NHS funded the removal of all 50,000 implants, the total bill would reach 150million. Even paying for a third of them would cost 50million – the amount the clinics are estimated to have made by choosing the cut-price PIP implants over better-quality ones.
On Friday, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said any woman who had breast implants on the NHS would have the right to have them taken out for nothing. The advice stands even if the implants have not ruptured because many women, who will mainly be breast cancer patients, are anxious their health could be at risk.
Promise: Andrew Lansley has said that any woman who had the implants on the NHS would be entitled to have them removed for nothing
Mr Lansley said private clinics had a ‘moral responsibility’ to produce the same standard of service, but if they refuse to co-operate, the NHS will step in.
While he did not order a mass recall, this statement effectively gave the green light for all those who want them removed to have it done.
Several large private chains, including Nuffield, Spire Healthcare and BMI, have agreed to comply.
But others are resisting, saying the fault lies with the Government and its medical watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory products Agency, for allowing the implants to be sold in the UK.
Transform, which sold PIP implants to almost 4,300 patients, is ‘reviewing its options’. But as it stands, it is charging patients 2,800 to have them taken out and better-quality ones put in.
It has said that doing the operations for free would put it out of business.
Chief executive Nigel Robertson said: ‘If this catastrophic situation was our fault, we would deserve to go out of business and I would hold my hands up. This is a catastrophic failure of the regulator.’
The Harley Medical Group fitted 13,900 PIP implants and says it had a rupture rate of 1.8 per cent.
Chairman Mel Braham says he will pay for the cost of new implants, but only if the NHS does the surgery.
He said the Government was responsible for the situation and could do the operations because it had hospitals ‘at its fingertips’.
The Hospital Group says there is no evidence to suggest routine removal of the implants. Its website points worried patients towards a helpline, which is open only during office hours.
Outrageous: Nigel Mercer attacked Linia for their comments and said that patients would soon assume clinics were putting profits ahead of their safety
Linia, which fitted 1,540 PIP implants at clinics from Chester to Bristol, is removing implants for free ‘when appropriate’ and replacing them ‘on a case-by-case basis’.
It has accused the Government of a massive regulatory failure and claimed that any operations done on the NHS are likely to be performed ‘inadequately’ by trainee surgeons.
A spokesman added: ‘We demand… all NHS patients are operated on by the consultants and these consultants should perform these operations outside their normal working hours for which they get paid, as we feel it is their moral obligation.’
Nigel Mercer, past president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said the clinics pointing the finger at the MHRA had ‘bought cheap implants and used cheap surgeons for more profit’.
He described Linia’s comments as ‘outrageous’ and warned that if clinics don’t start offering free operations, patients will assume they were putting profits before patient care.
Mr Mercer added: ‘These companies have huge legal resources and they have used them in the past.
‘They can go after their own insurers and those of PIP to recoup some of the money but they need to sort their act out.