The PIP breast implant controversy continues to grab the headlines across Europe. Concerns have been raised by women who have had their breast implants as “cosmetic surgery tourists”. What do they do if they have received a PIP (or a Rofil M) implant in a cosmetic surgery clinic in another country? Research by Treatment Abroad shows that UK patients may be less at risk than if they had gone for breast augmentation in the UK.
It is estimated that 40,000 women in the UK have received implants manufactured by the French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP). PIP implants contain low grade silicone; there are concerns about the risk of rupture of PIP implants and the effect that this silicone will have on the patient.
Reaction has varied across Europe. The French government has offered to pay for implants to be removed. The Czech, Dutch and German health authorities say that the implants should be removed. The UK government has said that there is no evidence that routine removal of PIP implants is necessary. However the NHS has agreed to remove PIP implants for free if the original operation was undertaken by the NHS (usually as part of a breast reconstruction after surgery for breast cancer). It has also said that women who are concerned about their breast implants should be able to have them removed for free by their private cosmetic surgery clinic.
The reaction from the private cosmetic surgery clinics in the UK has been mixed. Many providers such as BMI Healthcare have agreed that women who wish to have their PIP implants removed and replaced will be able to do so, at no cost.
However, the company that has done the largest number of PIP implants in the UK has said that it will not replace them free of charge. The Harley Medical Group has 13,900 clients who received PIP implants between 2001 and 2010 at their 31 clinics in the UK and Ireland. At the weekend, patients marched on the offices of cosmetic surgery clinics in Harley Street demanding that private clinics replace PIP breast implants.