Breast implants: Andrew Lansley calls for clinic action

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Media captionHealth Secretary Andrew Lansley: ''The expert group are very clear that this is not an urgent procedure'

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has accused private clinics which inserted potentially faulty PIP breast implants of "not stepping up to their responsibilities" in removing them.

The now-banned implants were not filled with medical grade silicone.

Some clinics have blamed poor regulation for their use and say they cannot afford to remove them.

Mr Lansley said he would be examining the clinics' "ability to meet their liabilities towards their patients".

The implants were made by the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) and filled with industrial grade silicone.

The health secretary's comments come the day after about 60 women marched on private cosmetic clinics in London which fitted the implants.

They called on clinics to replace them free of charge.

Mr Lansley told the Andrew Marr programme: "I'm not happy about private providers not stepping up to their responsibilities at all.

"The argument that they somehow can't afford to do so begs the question of where was their insurance, where were they insuring themselves against their liabilities."

European removals

He also said he had asked the medical director of the NHS, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, to convene an expert group to look at the future regulation of the cosmetic service industry.

"I think their ability to meet their liabilities towards their patients should be one of the issues we look at."

Mr Lansley also defended the decision not to offer replacement breast implants to private patients on the NHS.

About 40,000 women in the UK were fitted with PIP implants made from sub-standard silicone, with 95% treated in private clinics.

Some 300,000 of the implants were sold around the world, mainly in Europe.

French, German and Dutch health authorities have all recommended that women fitted with PIP implants should have them removed as a precaution.

However, a UK government advertisement published in English newspapers on Saturday repeated its position that there was no need for routine removal.

'Moral obligation'

Mr Lansley said if there was a clinical need, the NHS would pay to remove those implants but it would not offer replacements.

"If women are looking for replacement of these implants then ideally they should be looking to do so through their private providers, who provided them with a cosmetic benefit in the first place.

"So that's what they're looking for, and the NHS is there to provide clinical services, not to provide services that aren't clinically necessary."

Labour leader Ed Miliband, also speaking to Andrew Marr, said he had great sympathy for all the women affected by the implant issue.

"Andrew Lansley has been right to say companies have a moral obligation, but now that some companies aren't acting on that I don't think we can leave it at that," he said.

"What I want to initiate is a cross-party discussion about how we can not only change the law for the future but how, if there's any way we can make a difference now to the women affected, either through legislation or other means, to force those companies to face up to their responsibilities.

"We must leave no stone unturned in making those companies be held to account."

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