Implant clinics 'referring to NHS'
Some private clinics at the centre of the breast implant scandal are claiming they do not have "the skills" to treat affected patients, experts have warned.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) said private firms were referring patients to the NHS if their implants have ruptured, claiming they cannot help them themselves.
Around 40,000 women in the UK received implants manufactured by the now closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP), with around 5% of operations carried out on the NHS and the rest in private UK clinics. The implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses.
The Government has said NHS patients will get their PIP implants removed for free and has called on private clinics to do the same. Several major companies have agreed to honour the same deal but BAAPS said too many were referring patients to the NHS in what could be a "cost-containment" move.
BAAPS president, Fazel Fatah, said: "One of the side effects from ruptured PIP implants is an inflammatory response in the tissues exposed to the silicone - which is known to be of industrial, rather than medical grade."
He said that they can manifest as lumps and bumps in the chest area and the lumps that form around the breast can vary in size and if large, may require being surgically removed.
He added that the lymph glands, located in the armpits, act as a filter mechanism and can become affected and engorged, and if enlarged or painful they may also require removal.
He said: "Any qualified plastic surgeon can easily address these issues, make the appropriate decisions and manage arrangements for investigation in an effective manner - it is part of standard training."
Former BAAPS president Nigel Mercer added: "I've recently seen a number of patients with lumps in their armpits - in one woman's case, the surgeon directly admitted to her not having the skills to remove them. In another instance, the clinic itself told the patient their surgeons weren't competent enough to perform the procedure."
"Either these clinics' practitioners aren't qualified plastic surgeons as is generally claimed on their websites, which is clearly alarming, or they don't want to bear the costs of caring for their own patients. Frankly, neither option should be acceptable to the women affected."