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More women affected by breast implant scandal

Chief medical officer advises concerned women to see their GP or specialist

Mark Gould

Friday, 16 March 2012

Investigations by a UK regulator has revealed that around 7,000 more women in the UK may have been fitted with the banned French PIP breast implant than previously estimated. That brings the total number of UK women affected to 47,000.

The Chief Medical Officer has written 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 Department of Health will be placing advertisements in the weekend newspapers informing women with PIP implants about the advice from the experts and how they can get help if they are concerned.

French authorities had previously advised that only PIP breast implants that were used after 2001 may have been made with unauthorised silicone gel.

Following an investigation by the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the French authorities have this week reported that PIP implants made before 2001 may also contain unauthorised silicone gel.

This means an extra 7,000 women, who had PIP implants before 2001, could be affected.

The Department of Health says 1 in 5 breast implants need replacing within 10 years, whatever the make, so it is unlikely that all these 7,000 women still have the same PIP implants.

The independent expert group – led by the NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh – says there is not enough evidence to recommend routine removal of PIP breast implants given that this would mean many women having to have surgery.

However, he says 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.

Where the 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.

Mr Lansley said: “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.”

The Department of Health says women who have had a breast implant should:

  • 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. Women should get advice on whether or not they need a scan then discuss appropriate action with their doctor.
  • For those who decide that they want their implants replaced, the NHS will do it for free if the original operation 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.

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