LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it would investigate whether tighter regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry was needed after a health scare over breast implants made by a now defunct French company.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley also ordered a review into the safety and quality of private clinics offering cosmetic surgery in Britain.
The government has been under pressure to act after an uproar in Britain over breast implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), which went bankrupt in 2010.
“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,” Lansley said in a statement.
The French government has advised 30,000 women in France who bought implants from PIP to have them removed after concerns since the death from cancer of a French woman carrying PIP implants.
The British government says there is no need for the routine removal of PIP breast implants but says concerned women given the implants through the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) could have them removed and replaced at NHS expense.
Lansley told parliament health minister Frederick Howe would carry out a rapid study of the use of PIP breast implants in Britain to draw lessons for future regulation.
He said he had asked Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director, to look into health safeguards for people seeking cosmetic surgery such as breast implants and wrinkle-smoothing treatments.
Keogh’s review will look at whether there needs to be better regulation of cosmetic products and surgery in Britain and Europe and whether patients “can be confident that the people who carry out procedures have the skills to do so,” Lansley said.
The review will also look at record keeping, Lansley said, saying the implant affair had shown that safety information that the industry collected was of variable quality. “Without good data, we have no way of knowing when problems arise,” he said.
The Care Quality Commission, which regulates healthcare in England, will also look at private clinics offering cosmetic surgery to check if they met essential levels of safety and quality, Lansley said.
The British government has said it expects private health providers that used PIP breast implants to replace them free of charge for women who are concerned about them.
Lansley said eight private health providers had agreed to do this. Some have refused however, saying it would cost too much.
If a private clinic that put in PIP implants no longer exists or refuses to remove them, the NHS will remove the implants but will not replace them with new ones, Lansley said.
About 300,000 PIP implants were sold worldwide before the firm went out of business after an official probe revealed it was using a cheaper unapproved industrial-grade silicone in some products.
A British review found no link between the implants and cancer, but had not been able to establish if the PIP implants were more likely to rupture than others, saying information from the industry to the regulator was patchy.