Top doctor urges action over cheque-book breast clinics

Cumbria's top public health doctor is asking the government's Attorney General to consider forcing private health clinics to help women who have been given PiP breast implants.

Professor John Ashton, Cumbria's Director of Public Health, is writing to Dominic Grieve urging him to clarify the law around private clinics which have used sub-standard breast implants.

Although clinical evidence so far has not shown that PiP implants are at greater risk of rupture than other breast implants, their substandard make-up means women should be entitled to have them removed or replaced by the clinics which provided them.

Professor Ashton said: "This is not just a moral duty, but a legal one, and it is irrelevant whether the clinic in question is personally at fault for the product failure.

"I want to stress from the start that all the clinical evidence so far shows that women with PiP implants are at no greater health risk than those who have received other breast implants.

"What is beyond doubt though is that PiP implants have been made with cheaper materials for which they were never designed.

"If you buy a sub-standard product from a shop, the shop has a legal duty to replace it with a better one or give you your money back. The same rule should apply to private medical products.

"These cheque-book clinics were happy to carry out this procedure with sub-standard breast implant products for thousands of pounds at a time.

"Just like any other seller of substandard goods they should be legally bound to rectify the problem. The refusal of some clinics to help their patients has left some of those women worried and confused. I do not think it is fair to the taxpayer or other NHS patients for the NHS to foot the bill.

"It is totally unfair and unrealistic to expect every woman in Cumbria who has been sold these implants to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process to have their implants replaced.

"That's why I am asking the nation's lawyer to consider taking action to bring these cheque-book clinics to task and force them to act.

"If they refuse, their license to practice surgery in this country should be removed."

Detailed advice for women with PiP breast impants is available at www.nhs.uk (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/01January/Pages/government-review-advises-on...)