Sunday, 8 January 2012

Faulty breast implants – this isn’t just about silicone.

Silicone implants have been a big news story in the UK for the past few days – and not because just about every female contender in the latest series of ‘celebrity’ big brother appears to be sporting a pair of ‘plastic’ appendages.

A recent report has confirmed that PIP implants, currently nestling in 40,000 chests in the UK, are faulty, could possibly rupture and consist of  ‘non-medical’ grade silicone, of the type normally produced for mattress stuffing.

The really interesting bit is what happens next. How would the government react? Would the private sector step up to the plate (95% of these implants were fitted privately) and accept a level of responsibility? And what about the women walking around with a potential ticking time bomb lurking within what they clearly believe to be their greatest assets?

This is a situation about culpability, blame and ultimate responsibility. I wasn’t actually going to blog about this story until I received an email from one of my followers, a normally easy going lady of measured opinion. ‘Ok blogger idea if you have an opinion on the issue …. I do not feel that it’s right that the NHS foots the bill for the exploding boob saga! Surely the private companies who stuck them in should have to replace them?’

Nicely put – ‘angry from Amersham’!

Authorities in France, Czechoslovakia and Germany have recommended that the implants should be removed. Andrew Lansley, UK secretary of state for health, wisely took some time to ponder his recommendations. If he agreed that all PIP implants should be removed – who should pay for this? Only 5% of the implants were funded by the NHS, presumably for sound clinical reasons, such as reconstructive procedures following surgery for breast cancer. No-one could deny that these patients deserve fully funded support and replacement of the faulty inserts. But what about the remaining 95% who chose the surgery for cosmetic reasons? Where do you draw the line for the NHS to ‘mop up’ complications following procedures undertaken privately?

I fully agree with Andrew Lansley’s recommendations (and it’s not often you hear me say that in this blog). Anyone who received the implants under the NHS should be offered replacements. I also agree with his comments – We believe that private healthcare providers have a moral duty to offer the same service to their patients that we will offer to NHS patients - free information, consultations, scans and removal if necessary’

So far the private sector is making all the right noises, with the clinical director of one group, Spire Healthcare saying ‘We have a duty of care to our patients’ and Nuffield’s group medical director saying ‘We believe there is a strong case for the private healthcare industry to pull together to resolve this matter in the interests of patients’.

One could argue that this rather tiresome tale of a faulty medical device that will only affect 0.07% of the UK population is occupying too many column inches and too much airtime. But it is the bigger issue that is being questioned here – the fine line between responsibility and ownership of patients when they are treated in both the public and private sector.

I would like to see two outcomes from this recent problem.

Firstly, if treatment which takes place privately is not eligible within the NHS, such as for cosmetic purposes, these procedures will normally be self-funded, as they are unlikely to be covered by private medical insurance either. In these circumstances, I would like to see a mandatory indemnity insurance payment, to be made by the patient, to enable funding to reimburse the costs for emergency or follow up treatment, wherever it takes place.  Yes – this will make cosmetic surgery more expensive but it will introduce a safeguard against future controversy like the PIP implant dilemma.

Secondly, and this is a personal view, it would be good to see fewer women, whatever age, with fake bosoms. Stick to what Mother Nature gave you and be grateful for your good health.


Chairman Chegwin said...

Like you, I believe that "...anyone who received the implants under the NHS should be offered replacements" - with the caveat that replacement must necessitated by it being medically necessary.

As for those fitted privately, purely for cosmetic purposes, well, there has always been the assumption of 'caveat emptor' to such arrangements. So I'm not sure why this should be any different?

Unless there is a clear medical emergency (on which the NHS would, quite properly, intervene), the individual should pursue the private provider for replacement and/or redress - and then we will see just how committed to patient care and welfare these providers are. Bottom line for me in such cases is that this has nothing at all to do with the NHS.

James Dean said...

The one responsible on those breast implants should do the action at the soonest possible time to prevent further damage to the patients. Thanks for sharing this eye opening post.

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