Implants bill for NHS 'is unfair', says Andrew Lansley


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Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said today he did not think it was fair to the taxpayer for the NHS "to foot the bill" for patients who had private PIP breast implant operations.

Mr Lansley told the Commons that the NHS would continue to be there to support any woman if a clinic that fitted PIP implants no longer existed or refused to remove the faulty implants.

The Welsh Government said yesterday that women who had PIP breast implants fitted privately could have them removed and replaced on the NHS in Wales.

Welsh Government Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said not replacing the PIP implants could put women at an "unnecessary risk".

Mr Lansley's comments follow an announcement from the Government on Friday that anxious patients who had their surgery on the NHS will be able to have the implants removed and replaced free of charge, but he said he expected private clinics to offer the same deal to their patients.

Around 40,000 British women have received PIP implants manufactured by the now closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP).

The implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses.

Mr Lansley said: "I believe that it is right that those who receive their care privately should also receive a similar level of service and reassurance from their care provider, however I do not think it is fair to the taxpayer for the NHS to foot the bill for patients who had their operation privately."

Eight private healthcare companies, he said, had confirmed that they would follow the same guidelines as those set out for NHS patients.

He stressed: "But I want to be absolutely clear that the NHS will continue to be there to support any woman if a clinic that implanted PIP implants no longer exists or refuses to remove the breast implants.

"Where that patient is entitled to NHS services, the NHS will in consultation with their doctor, support the removal of PIP implants in line with the guidance I just outlined."

He added: "Any NHS service in this instance would only cover the removal of the implant, it would not include the replacement of private cosmeticimplants. In these cases the Government would pursue private clinics to seek recovery of our costs."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Mr Lansley he had got "a lot of work to do and ground to recover" as his response to date had not helped build confidence.

Mr Burnham accused the Government of giving "mixed messages" on the issue over Christmas and causing "added uncertainty" at an anxious time.

He said: "What people needed at the earlier stages was a strong statement from the Government of what was expected of all private providers.

"The reality is the Government's failure to provide that leadership from the outset has left people fending for themselves in the face of a self-serving and unaccountable industry."

Mr Lansley said lessons needed to be learned from this case and incorporated into the ongoing review of the EU Medical Devices Directive.

He repeated the pledge for the Care Quality Commission to conduct a swift review of private clinics. It will look at evidence of compliance, patient safety and clinical quality, and the information and support given to patients.

It is expected to publish its findings before the end of March, he added.

A review has already been set up into the regulation and governance of the cosmetic surgery sector, led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and will include treatments such as cosmetic surgery and dermal fillers.

He said: "The Government's commitment is to provide effective reassurance and remedy for women with these implants and also to learn the lessons to deliver safety and quality for the future."