HUNDREDS of Scots PIP breast implant patients worried about their safety could be forced to pay if they want to have them removed, after one of the country's leading cosmetic surgery providers refused to foot the bill.
Transform said yesterday it expected any former clients with the implants to pay £2800 to have them taken out and replaced with alternative brands – a decision which is believed to affect around 430 Scots.
Transform has clinics in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, and operates services in Stirling and Ayr.
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The move, which follows an announcement from the Scottish and UK Governments on Friday that anxious patients who had their surgery on the NHS will be able to have the implants removed and replaced free of charge, runs contrary to the position of many other private providers.
BMI Healthcare, Nuffield Health and Spire have all agreed to offer free removal of the PIP implants after Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon and the Coalition Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said they expected private clinics to match the NHS stance.
However, Nigel Robertson, chief executive of Transform Cosmetic Surgery, said the problem had arisen as a result of "failed regulation" which passed the implants as safe.
Mr Robertson said: "Transform is fully committed to supporting the Department of Health in its efforts to end the uncertainty and anxiety of British women affected by the PIP situation and awaits a response to its request for an urgent meeting to discuss the way forward.
"It is important to recognise this crisis is the result of failed regulation of breast implants, which were approved for use."
The implants, made in France by the now-defunct firm Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP), were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses.
In France, the Government has told 30,000 women they should have the implants removed, while the Czech and German authorities have recommended women should also have them taken out.
However, an expert group that conducted a review in the UK concluded there is no link between the implants and cancer, as reported in one French case.
Nonetheless, it said it was "undeniably the case" the implants are made up of non-medical grade silicone and should not have been available for women in the first place. It could not rule out the possibility that some are toxic.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Private providers have legal obligations to their patients. The NHS will offer a package of care for its patients, and we expect the private sector to do the same."
Last week, the Scottish Government confirmed any women who are refused help by their private provider or whose provider no longer exists will be able to have the implants removed on the NHS if their GP agrees that it is "clinically necessary". The NHS will then pursue private clinics for the cost to prevent taxpayers picking up the tab. But where an operation is not deemed clinically necessary, patients will have to pay for it.
A group of Scottish plastic surgeons announced yesterday they would offer cut-price removal and replacement surgery to women unable to receive the procedure free from their private clinic or the NHS.
The surgeons, from Glasgow-based Confidence Cosmetic Surgery, said they would reduce their normal prices for breast surgery by up to 60% for patients concerned about the PIP implants.
Women who have had no problems with the implants but want them removed regardless will be offered the procedure for £2100, compared to between £3500 and £5000 for a standard breast augmentation.