Commons Health Select Committee hears evidence on PIP implants

A defective silicone gel breast implant, which was removed from a patient and manufactured by French company Poly Implant Prothese PIP implants were banned in 2010 as they contain unauthorised silicone filler

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About 1,000 private patients with PIP breast implants have contacted the NHS in England.

The figure was given by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, in evidence to the Commons Health Select Committee.

Last month the NHS in England said it would remove PIP implants from private patients but would not replace them.

It is thought around 40,000 women in Britain have PIP implants, the vast majority of surgery being for breast augmentation performed in the private sector.

Professor Keogh said 745 NHS patients with PIP implants had so far been identified but this figure may rise. Most of this surgery was reconstructive following breast cancer.


In December the French government recommended the removal of all PIP implants because of concerns about high rupture rates and doubts about their long-term safety.

In January an expert committee led by Professor Keogh said there was no need for routine removal but recognised the anxiety the issue was causing women.

He said there was a "significant uncertainty" about the safety of PIP implants and his committee was doing all it could to collate hard evidence; countries which had recommended the implants be removed were acting on the same information available in the UK.

Professor Keogh said there was no statutory requirement on clinics to have the kind of insurance that would have covered a fraudulent product like the PIP implants. They were banned in 2010 when it emerged that the company had been using a filler which had not undergone any medical tests.

The Chair of the committee, Stephen Dorrell MP, asked why the NHS in England was not following the example of Wales and offering to remove and replace PIP implants from all patients. He said it could not be good medical practice to force women to have two operations.

Spot checks

Professor Keogh said the Welsh offer was at odds with the advice of surgeons because replacing implants was not usually needed, and it went against the principle that the NHS did not do private practice.

He said private clinics had a moral and social responsibility to remove and replace PIP implants if that was what women wanted.

The committee also heard from Professor Sir Kent Woods, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). He said the French authorities had given them three days' notice of their decision to recommend the removal of PIP implants.

Professor Woods said the system of registering medical devices in Europe generally worked well, but attention needed to be paid to the issue of spot checks of manufacturers. It was a spot check on the PIP manufacturing plant in Toulon which finally revealed that unauthorised silicone filler was being used.

Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    When NICE won't authorise the use of drugs which (for example) can cure chronic myeloid leukemia, how could it be appropriate for the NHS to pay for the removal/replacement of implants inserted for cosmetic purposes at customer's request by the private sector? If the private clinics can't afford to cover their liabilities on this, they go bust and the industry has to pick up the pieces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This must be causing great concern in Essex.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    It is wrong that women who have been sold substandard products cannot have them removed and replaced at the private clinic's expense. If the clinic has gone bust, then the industry should club together to pay for replacements. If they don't hold to their obligations, these doctors should be banned from private cosmetic work. Women seem to have more rights buying a new sofa than buying surgery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I am perplexed as to why the Sale of Goods Act has not been quoted before? The Goods supplied must be of satisfactory quality etc. and as many would have paid over £100 & under £30k on their credit Card, the card issuer is also liable for the goods / service provided.
    Can anyone advise if they did other types of implant (testicular for example?)
    Or have I missed something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Some women were given implants during reconstructive surgury following breast cancer, they should be fast tracked through the NHS .
    Those who just had their attributes enhanced need to have implants removed, not replaced; I wonder why has no one started legal proceedings? Surely this was a criminal act?? or have the "no win no fee" adverts just not been released yet?


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