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Lansley criticises private companies for refusing to replace breast implants
Sunday 15 January 2012
Women march down Harley Street in London to protest against private cosmetic surgery companies' refusal to remove PIP breast implants for free. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
Private medical companies refusing to replace the banned PIP breast implants free of charge should "step up to their responsibilities", the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has said.
He said a review of private cosmetic surgery would look at how firms insured against their liabilities after the scandal, which broke in France last month.
Lansley told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the NHS would be able to help where there was a clinical need. He said women were right to be worried about the implants but insisted they did not need "urgent" medical attention.
The health secretary added: "I am not happy about private providers not stepping up to their responsibilities at all.
"I think the argument that they somehow can't afford to do so begs the question: where was their insurance? Where were they insuring themselves against their liabilities?
"I think their ability to meet their liabilities to their patients should be one of the issues we look at."
Lansley's comments came as the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the government had to make sure private providers met their "moral obligation" to the women affected.
He said: "What I want to initiate is cross-party discussions about how we can not only change the law for the future, but how in any way we can make a difference now to the women affected, even through legislation or other means, to force those companies to face up to their responsibilities.
"We must leave no stone unturned in making those companies be held to account. That's what I want to see and I hope we can do that on a cross-party basis."
On Saturday, 60 women marched on The Harley Medical Group and the Transform offices in London after they refused to replace free of charge the implants they had fitted.
The government has also launched a national press advertising campaign this weekend advising women what to do if they have the implants.
Adverts are appearing in national newspapers and will be featured on websites from Monday, while GP surgeries and other parts of the NHS will be urged to display them.
The advice reiterates the government's view that there is no evidence to support routine removal of the implants unless women have symptoms such as pain and tenderness.
It stresses that experts have found no link with cancer and there is no clear evidence of an increased risk of harm compared with other brands of breast implants.
Around 40,000 women in the UK received PIP implants manufactured by the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP).
The implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses.