Statistics showed that in France 30,000 women had PIP implants and 495 (1.7%) had gel bleed which caused irritation and inflammation. 1.7% seems a low number but I think it is a high number in a medical scenario. Further investigations by the French authorities found that there were weaknesses in the PIP implant’s shells. In France, the government is funding the replacement of PIP implants.
In the UK, an NHS scientific panel advised that “…it is not necessary to recommend the routine removal of these implants.” The NHS policy is therefore:
- PIP implants fitted by the NHS will be removed and replaced
- PIP implants fitted by private clinics will be removed (but not replaced) by the NHS if the clinic refuses or is no longer in business
Private clinics have various policies which include:
- Free removal but not replacement
- Discounted prices for removal and replacement
- Do not offer removal or replacement
- Clinic is no longer in business
Clearly the policies of the NHS and the private clinics is resulting in some women who are unable to get their PIP implants removed and/or replaced. 3,000 women are, therefore, filing a class action against against approximately 30 clinics for fitting faulty PIP breast implants. The women are represented by 200 law firms. This is one of the largest class actions raised in the UK.
I sympathise with the women and they should have their breast implants replaced. However, I believe that urgent clarification is required over who pays for the cost of removal and replacement.
The manufacturer, PIP, would be the obvious candidate for funding removal and replacement but unfortunately PIP is no longer in business. In my view, it should therefore be the clinics who cover the cost of removing and replacing the breast implant. As a business the clinics took a risk when they used cheap PIP implants to reduce their costs and increase profitability. That risk now results in a very high cost to remove and replace the implants. From a business perspective, its simple, the risk didn’t pay off and if this drives the clinic out of business then that’s tough … but that’s business.
In my view the situation should be:
- Clinics must remove and replace implants at their cost
- If the cost of doing this drives the company out of business then that is just the reality of business life
- NHS remove and replace PIP implants where:
- NHS fitted PIP implants
- the clinic is no longer in business
In my view this would result in all women being able to have their PIP implants removed and replaced. It would also result in the private clinics paying for their own mistake. If this results in some of the private clinics going out of business then that it is business.