Andrew Lansley under pressure to offer replacement breast implants on NHS

Around 2,000 women in Wales are estimated to have the implants, which contain industrial-grade silicone.

That is a small fraction of the 52,000 across Britain now thought to have them, of which at least 3,000 received them on the NHS for reconstructive surgery.

Mark Harvey, head of litigation at Cardiff-based Hugh James Solicitors, who is representing over 600 women taking action against private clinics, urged Mr Lansley to offer replacement as well as removal for all women with the PIP implants – wherever they lived in the UK.

He said: “Health and wellbeing of these women has to come first, and if that means the NHS acting as a safety net for them, then it should do so.”

He went on: “Women are phoning me daily saying that they are being rebuffed by private clinics, so I must support the Welsh Government’s view.”

However, Fazel Fatah, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), disagreed with the Welsh offer, saying the NHS should not be funding cosmetic surgery.

He said: “I personally don’t believe the taxpayer should foot the bill for replacement as well as removal.”

Mr Lansley has said that those who received them on the NHS for this reason would be able to get replacement implants inserted free of charge.

A spokesman for the Department of Health indicated that there would be no change of position, and that women who received PIPs from private clinics would not be able to have new implants fitted free on the NHS.

She said an expert group headed by Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, had “carefully considered the clinical issues” before advising Mr Lansley last week.

She went on: “We do not recognise the advice that Wales has received. Sir Bruce’s expert group, which included some of the foremost experts in plastic surgery, made clear recommendations last week for patients in England, and concluded that there is no significant increased clinical risk in cases where implants are not replaced.

“We have been very clear about the standard of care we will offer to NHS patients, and our expectation that private sector providers should match this.

“We will continue to work with the private sector to make sure they fulfil their obligations to give their patients access to advice and investigation, and removal and re-implantation as necessary.”