Faulty breast implant row boss gave safety advice to Labour
Harley Medical Group chairman was asked to join a Department of Health steering committee in 2005The committee advised greater regulation of the plastic surgery industry
HMG is currently deluged with 2,000 calls a day from women wanting implants removed
The cosmetic surgery boss who is demanding the taxpayer pay to replace faulty breast implants was appointed by the last Labour government to advise on patient safety and regulation of private firms.
Mel Braham, chairman of Harley Medical Group (HMG), was asked to join a Department of Health steering committee that supported the then-chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson in tackling misleading advertising and increasing regulation of Botox injections.
The committee met nine times during 2005 and 2006 and planned to introduce tougher penalties for rogue plastic surgeons and an academy to accredit and train cosmetic doctors.
'Profit motives': Mel Braham
This week, Mr Braham, 70, was accused of failing the 13,900 women his company fitted with PiP (Poly Implant Prosthesis) implants by claiming that removing them would put hmg out of business.
Braham, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in macadamia nuts and hair transplants in Australia, lives in a 1.6 million London apartment.
HMG is owned by a financial trust, Praxis, based in Guernsey.
Records show Praxis owned all of the shares, which has tax advantages. Its relationship with HMG is unknown, but Praxis is not involved in the day-to-day running of the company.
Tory MP Dr Daniel Poulter, who sits on the Health Select Committee, said: ‘It is unacceptable for cosmetic surgery companies to put profit motives before the best interests of patients.’ HMG says the responsibility lies with the Government.
Praxis Group did not return calls for comment. A spokesman for Mr Braham said: ‘We are unable to comment further as this information is with HMG’s lawyers.’
'Scapegoat': The Harley Medical Group, claims it is the victim of a conspiracy by surgeons who want to see it out of business
Mr Braham wants the taxpayer to foot the bill to help its patients.
The multi-million-pound cosmetic surgery business, which fitted more PIP implants than any other British firm, also claimed it will need a Government loan if it is to help the NHS.
Mr Braham said his firm had been made a ‘scapegoat’ in the saga and was the victim of a conspiracy by other surgeons who want to see him out of business.
The chain is currently deluged with around 2,000 calls a day from women, most of whom want their implants removed.
group, which had a turnover of more than 30million in 2009, fitted
around one in three of the 45,000 PIP implants sold across the country.
Braham said the business did not have the money, time or space to
remove and replace all the implants – and the NHS should step in.
Booming business: The group fitted PIP implants in 13,900 women between September 2001 and 2010
said the chain of 31 clinics, like its patients, was an ‘innocent
victim’ of a regulatory failure, and said it was ‘outrageous’ of the
Government to call on private clinics to take responsibility.
His comments have caused fury among MPs, patients, surgeons and lawyers, who say a clinic’s first duty is to its patients, not its profits.
They came as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced spot checks on plastic surgery clinics and a wide-ranging review of cosmetic surgery practices from nose jobs and laser surgery to injections used to iron out wrinkles.
AGONY OF MUM-TO-BE
When Anntina Maughan had her breasts enlarged, she was thrilled with the results.
Now, four years later and pregnant, the mother of two couldn't be more unhappy with them.
Scans show that one – or both – of the PIP implants have ruptured.
But, at five-and-a-half-months pregnant, Miss Maughan, 39, of Crawley in West Sussex, has been advised against surgery to have them out.
Miss Maughan paid Harley Medical Group 5,000 for breast augmentation after enduring years of low self-esteem due to her small bust.
Last year she started experiencing burning pains, and then found lumps in her breasts, raising fears of cancer.
She now suffers stabbing pains – but has been advised not to have the ruptured implants out when pregnant.
Miss Maughan believes the Harley Medical Group should pay to remove and replace the implants after she has her baby.
She added: 'It is their fault this happened. I went there in full confidence. If it was up to me, I'd have the implants out right now. I worry because I don't know what was in them.'
Mr Lansley also pointed the finger at Germany, by naming it as the country that approved the French-made PIPs for use in Europe.
Industry experts say that the combination of cut-price implants and low payments to surgeons would have allowed clinics using PIPs to make an extra profit of up to 1,000 per patient.
Tests have confirmed that PIP
implants, which are extra-fragile and filled with industrial-grade
silicone believed to have been made for mattresses, do not cause cancer.
However, the Department of Health
admits they should never have been put in the human body and the Health
Secretary has cleared the way for all women who want them removed to
have it done.
Mr Lansley said private clinics have a ‘moral duty’ to take them out and
if they don’t, the NHS will step in.
However, the pledge doesn’t
include the replacement of implants.
private chains have agreed to help their patients free of charge but
two of the largest groups have ignored Mr Lansley’s call.
Britain’s biggest cosmetic surgery group, is ‘reviewing its options’.
But as it stands, it is charging patients 2,800 to replace PIP
The Harley Medical Group has so far removed and replaced
ruptured implants for free – but only if they were fitted in the past
Mr Braham, who previously ran a travel
agency in Australasia, said his business couldn’t cope with the panic
from its patients. He said: ‘We don’t have the number of surgeons, the
hospitals and the anaesthetists and we don’t have the financial capacity
to do it for nothing.
do roughly 5,000 to 6,000 operations a year and are not capable of
adding another 13,900 on top of that.’ Instead, he wants the NHS to take
the implants out – and put new ones in when the woman is on the
wants the Health Service to pay for the bulk of the costs. The firm
would pay for new implants – but would need a loan from the Government.
The Government however said it would be ‘irresponsible’ of the Harley
Medical Group not to help its patients.
Fazel Fatah, president of the British
Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said: ‘We find it
outrageous…when women’s peace of mind is at stake, some clinics are
refusing to honour their ostensible commitment to duty of care,
particularly when they made a profit by using cheaper products and
Dutch authorities have reversed their earlier advice on PIPs and said women who had the implants should have them removed.