Health secretary Andrew Lansley has set out a “series of steps” in response to continued concerns over the safety risks posed by French Poly Implant Prostheses (PiP) breast implants.
Mr Lansley said NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh had been asked to follow up an interim review from earlier this month with a full review of all available evidence on the safety of breast implants and dermal fillers.
Sir Bruce will consider how the cosmetic sector can improve the quality and safety of care through better governance based on better quality data collection and improved professional development; whether cosmetic products and interventions are appropriately regulated; and if not how regulation of the sector in the UK and in Europe can be improved.
Mr Lansley said there would also be a “rapid review” of how the regulation of medical devices operated at a European level, to be led by health minister Lord Howe. More details will be published shortly, he said.
In addition, the Care Quality Commission is to conduct a “swift review” of private clinics that offer cosmetic surgery, looking at whether they meet essential levels of safety and quality, and at the information and support they provide to patients.
Findings from Sir Bruce’s interim review, published on 6 January, concluded there was “no clear evidence at present” to recommend the routine removal of PiP implants on safety grounds.
However, the government said the NHS would “support” removal of PiP implants if, after a consultation with their surgeon, the patient still had concerns. The NHS would also replace the implants if the original operation was done by the NHS.
The DH also said it expected the private sector “to do the same” for its patients, saying: “We believe that private providers have a duty to take steps to provide appropriate after-care to patients they have treated.”
However, some private clinics have refused to remove the implants free of charge, leading to pressure on the government to fund the procedure.
This pressure increased on Wednesday when the Welsh Government announced that women who had PiP breast implants fitted privately could have them removed and replaced on the NHS.
Commenting on his latest plans, Mr Lansley said: “My concern throughout this situation has been for the safety and wellbeing of all women with PiP implants.
“We have set out how the NHS will help patients affected, and we expect the private sector to do the same.”
He added: “We must now go further and this is why I have set out today a number of actions to ensure we learn the lessons, and look at how we can tighten up regulation of the wider cosmetic industry so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Cosmetic surgeons were instructed to stop using PiP implants in March 2010 when it emerged that they were made of industrial grade silicone rather than the medical grade necessary for the CE mark.
Prior to this, some 40,000 women in the UK are thought to have had PiP implants, with concerns being raised about their performance from as early as 2006.