Wales politics

Breast implants: Welsh NHS to replace privately-fitted PIP implants

The Welsh government is to pay to replace banned breast implants for those treated privately if there is a clinical need.

Last week it said NHS patients could have implants replaced, but private patients would only have them removed.

Women must prove they sought redress from their private provider and be resident and registered with a GP in Wales.

The health minister said not replacing implants could pose unnecessary risk.

The implants from French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) were banned last year after they were found to contain a non-medical-grade silicone filler.

In December, French authorities recommended that 30,000 women have faulty breast implants removed as a precaution.

Last week the UK government reaffirmed its view that the implants, which 40,000 UK women have, did not require routine removal.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it had been advised by the NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh's expert group.

"We do not recognise the advice that Wales has received," he said.

"Sir Bruce's expert group, which included some of the foremost experts in plastic surgery, made clear recommendations last week for patients in England, and concluded that there is no significant increased clinical risk in cases where implants are not replaced.

"We have been very clear about the standard of care we will offer to NHS patients, and our expectation that private sector providers should match this."

It is thought 95% of women had the operation privately, 5% on the NHS.

Around 2,000 women in Wales are estimated to have the implants.

Complication risk

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths announced last week that the NHS in Wales would remove PIP implants if there was a clinical need.

On Tuesday, she said: "We said then that we would replace implants which were put in by the NHS, and today we are going one step further by announcing we will also replace those which were put in privately.

"Removing the implants and not replacing them could result in unsightly scarring, loose skin, and potentially the accumulation of fluids, need for drainage, and risk of infection."

It is feared that putting women through two separate operations increases the risk of complications.

But Ms Griffiths stressed that NHS treatment would be a last resort for women who were treated privately.

"Safeguards will be put in place to hold the private sector to account and ensure that everything possible is done to seek redress from private providers before the NHS steps in," she said.

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