Scotland politics

PIP breast implant scare hyped up, says private body

PIP implant
Image caption Concerns were raised about implants rupturing and causing cancer

The head of the body representing private hospitals in Scotland has accused the media of "hyping up" the PIP breast implant scare.

Alison Smith, chair of the Scottish Independent Hospitals Association, said there was no evidence that they were a health risk.

It emerged PIP implants, made by a French company, were made with non-medical grade silicone.

Concerns have been raised about implants rupturing and causing cancer.

Meanwhile, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the NHS in Scotland only avoided the use of Poly Implant Prothese implants by chance.

However, the estimated number of women in Scotland who have received them through the private healthcare sector has been put at between 1,300 and 4,000.

Some private hospitals have been charging £2,500 to replace PIP implants.

The French government previously recommended the implants be removed "as a preventative measure because of health concerns about high rates of implant rupture and cancer".

Scientific evidence

Ms Smith, who is also executive director of BMI Carrick Glen private hospital, told the Scottish Parliament's health committee: "We were most disappointed to find that this manufacturer had changed the filler of the implant, but, at this present time, there is no evidence to suggest that it is creating a health risk either in the medium or long term for these women, and that is a government body (MHRA) that I am quoting."

SNP MSP Richard Lyle asked Ms Smith if she would be concerned if she had undergone the surgery personally.

She responded: "I think that's a little unfair question, but I most probably think, as a woman with a foreign body in me that had any question with regards to the scare that has really, I think, been hyped up by the media because we do have to go back to evidence, the scientific and clinical evidence that is on the table.

"At this time there is no evidence that it is causing a threat to the women's health."

Another MSP, Bob Doris, asked for an assurance that, if female Carrick Glen patients requested removal, BMI would "act first and carry out those procedures and worry later in terms of who picks up that bill".

Ms Smith responded: "As the executive director of BMI Carrick Glen, that is not the instruction that I have been given by my chief executive so I wouldn't be in a position to give that assurance at the moment."

Also appearing before the committee, Ms Sturgeon said Scottish NHS boards had been free to buy implants from the now defunct French firm which made the PIP products, but none did so.

Under questioning from Labour's Richard Simpson, a former GP, she said: "As far as I can tell it was more chance than anything else.

"Obviously these decisions are down to individual health boards that are carrying out these procedures as to what implants to procure.

"What I can certainly say is that it wasn't as a result of any guidance or any instruction given to health boards."

Scotland's chief medical officer, Sir Harry Burns, also told MSPs that the health service could have faced a legal challenge from the manufacturers, if it had refused to use the implants.

He added: "When the PIP implants were first registered, apparently, we are told, they were approved with medical grade silicone in them.

"That changed through a difference of process."

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