NHS rules mean PIP victims face two ops

Lionel Cironneau/AP

Thousands of women with PIP breast implants face two operations instead of one due to NHS small print.

Despite the Health Service agreeing to remove the faulty PIP implants for some private patients, it has said that it will not replace them at the same time – even if the woman pays for them herself.

Yesterday the Health Select Committee called on the government to agree to a protocol in the NHS where replacement breast implants could be inserted at the same operation as removal if the patient wishes and at their own cost.

However, ministers said that it is a founding principle of the NHS that patients don't have a mixture of private and taxpayer-funded treatment at the same time. The rules mean that while a patient can have a private operation in an NHS hospital, it is not possible to have treatment that is part-private and part-publicly paid for.

For the women with PIP implants, this means they face one NHS operation for the removal of the implants, and a second private operation if they wish for them to be replaced.

"Bad medicine"
Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the Health Select Committee, said it was simply "bad medicine as well as bad common sense" for women to have two operations when only one is necessary.

He said women whose implants were fitted by a private clinic in the first instance, and are now being treated by the NHS, should be able to pay to have new implants put in, and that the interests of women should come before NHS small print.

Mr Dorrell, a former Tory health secretary, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We think it should be possible for that woman to have a replacement implant put in the same operation, albeit that she pays for it as indeed she paid for the original implant."

Patients come first
While yesterday's report from the Health Select Committee recommends that the cost of all care provided in respect of non-NHS implants should be recovered from the private clinics that carried out the initial implants, there are fears that a two-in-one operation would allow them to shirk responsibility.

Yet Nigel Mercer consultant plastic surgeon and former President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons believes the interest of women must come first. "Clearly the most sensible approach is to get patients sorted out first then the NHS can recover costs from the private clinics and the insurers of PIP.

"One operation is obviously safer than two. The NHS refusal to conduct removal and replacement at the same time simply to leaves thousands of women in mire. We need a clear lead that puts their interests first."

Bend the rules
Latest figures indicate that up to 47,000 British women have the French-made PIP implants, with the majority having paid for their treatment privately.

Department of Health policy says private clinics have a 'moral duty' to take the PIP implants out. If they won't, or if they are no longer in business, the NHS will step in and remove them but not replace them.

In its report published yesterday, the committee said that it understands the Government's argument but said the NHS "must find a way round this issue".

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