The scandal affected thousands of women who were given breast implants made from industrial-grade silicone not meant for medical use, manufactured by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP). In England, around 7,000 women are currently being checked for faulty implants and hundreds have already had them taken out.
The breast implants scandal has triggered a major review of cosmetic surgery, and as part of this inquiry people will be asked their opinions on the industry including whether they are given sufficient information about procedures.
The sub-standard material used in the PIP implants is not thought to be toxic but it is considered to have twice the rupture rate, raising a number of health and safety concerns.
Although surgeons had been warning authorities in the UK about adverse effects for years, it was only at the end of 2011 that the issue really came to light.
NHS medical director Prof Sir Bruce Keogh is leading the English review which is set to publish early next year, and will look into whether tighter regulations in the cosmetic industry are needed.
“The recent problems with PIP breast implants have shone a light on the cosmetic surgery industry,” he said.
“Many questions have been raised, particularly around the regulation of clinics, whether all practitioners are adequately qualified, how well people are advised when money is changing hands, aggressive marketing techniques, and what protection is available when things go wrong.”
The public are now being asked about their experiences of cosmetic surgery, to help establish what changes need to be made to prevent another scandal like this one.
Professor Keogh added: “I am concerned that too many people do not realise how serious cosmetic surgery is and do not consider the lifelong implications it can have. That’s why I have put together this review committee to advise me in making recommendations to government on how we can better protect people who choose to have surgery or cosmetic interventions.
“We want to hear views from everyone, particularly people who have experience of the cosmetic surgery industry or of other cosmetic interventions – good and bad – so we can learn what works best.”
A ComRes poll of 1,762 people has revealed some insights into views of the cosmetic surgery industry including as a result of the PIP scandal.
Many people view the price of surgery more highly than how qualified the surgeons are or how good the customer care is. Two-thirds of respondents think cost matters in making a decision whether to have cosmetic surgery or not, compared to half who factor in doctors’ qualifications and less than half who factor in aftercare.
Since the PIP scandal, the number of women considering surgery has dropped. Nearly half of the women who had previously said they’d have considered surgery are now less likely to.
The review will investigate the industry and is expected to make recommendations including minimum standards for surgeons, a requirement for a full explanation of all health risks associated with any procedure, and a cooling-off period before surgery.