PIP Breast Implant Safety Concerns
French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) manufactured and supplied breast implants which have been found to contain industrial rather than medical grade silicone gel. Additionally they are thought to potentially have an increased risk of rupturing. Initially reports also linked the implants to a rare form of cancer known as ALCL. This cancer link has been now been firmly discounted by medical experts in the UK and in Europe.
There has been much coverage in the news surrounding PIP implants. An investigation by the UK medical safety watchdog has discovered that contaminated implants may have been used in Britain since 1997. It is now estimated that around 47,000 UK women have been given the PIP implants.
The problem was first identified in France and follwing an investigation, the French government have assessed a potential rupture rate of 5% of all implants and have recommended that the implants be immediately removed. The French government have also offered free six-monthly ultrasound scans to women who decide not to have the PIP implants removed.
The position is different in the UK where official figures estimate that the potential rupture rate of the PIP implant is likely to be closer to 1% though independent studies have suggested that the rate may be as high as 7%.
What is the UK Government doing about the PIP issue?
An NHS committee was formed to investigate the situation and to report. On 6 January 2011, the committee, led by NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh, published its interim report.
The committee concluded that the stress and worry potentially-affected women may be experiencing is itself a form of health risk. It endorsed Department of Health ministers’ decision that women who had PIP implants fitted on the NHS be offered free replacement implants, following consultation with their GP and surgeon.
The Department of Health have stated that private clinics, who carried out 95% of the surgery, have a moral duty to offer the same to their patients. Some private clinics have already offered to replace the implants for free. However, if private clinics are no longer in business or refuse to help their patients, the NHS will remove the implants but not replace them.
The Department of Health has set up two reviews to look at how the PIP situation occurred and the issue of regulating the cosmetic surgery industry as a whole.
The first review will be led by Lord Howe and will address a number of specific issues.The report is due to be submitted to the health secretary by the end of March 2012.
A second review is also planned and this will look at whether the cosmetic surgery industry needs to be regulated and, if so, how this should happen. It will be led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director, who has commented that he is “working with experts from the plastic surgery field to look at what we can do to make sure people who choose to have cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic procedures are safe”. He further commented that he will, “ be looking at all aspects of regulation – at the regulation of implants and fillers, at whether the people who carry out cosmetic interventions have the right skills, at whether the clinics look after the care and welfare of their patients." The extensive report is due to be submitted by March 2013. So the position is not yet absolutely clear.
What should you do?
Our advice to those women affected by the PIP issue is to initially to contact their GP, or the surgeon who carried out their operation. In accordance with the current practices an ultrasound scan will be arranged to check if the implants have ruptured. Alternatively you should consult your GP and get an NHS referral to ascertain if there is an issue and will be advised from there on the best course of action.
The latest news and guidance concerning PIP implants from the NHS can be found here.
How can we help?
Liability in these cases will depend on the particular circumstances of individual cases. Please register your circumstances with us here and will keep you informed as the situation develops. We can guide you through the process of pursuing a claim for compensation, should that be the most appropriate course of action.
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