Woman pays £11,000 to fix ruptured breast implant

Beth Hewson sat in front of a bookcase
Beth Hewson said knowing one of her implants had ruptured was the cause of "so much worry" [BBC/Louise Fewster]

A woman left in constant pain because of a ruptured faulty breast implant has paid £11,000 for private surgery because the NHS waiting list was too long.

Beth Hewson, from York, said she was left unable to work after one of her Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) implants burst six months ago.

The 49-year-old said the private clinic that fitted the implants in the 1990s had refused to remove them, and there was a 12-month wait for corrective surgery on the NHS.

She said: "You just don’t know where it is. You don’t know what is happening. You don’t know where it has gone and you don’t know how it’s affecting you."

The Department of Health said there was no evidence to suggest ruptured PIP implants were toxic, and it did not believe they were a threat to the long-term health of women.

However, more than a decade on from the PIP breast implant scandal, campaigners say the lives of tens of thousands of women are still being affected.

Ruptured PIP implant
Ms Hewson has been in constant pain since the rupturing of her implant, similar to the one pictured [Reuters]

Nearly 50,000 British women had the French-made implants fitted before they were banned in 2010.

PIP was liquidated in 2010 after it emerged its breast implants were filled with cheap, industrial-grade silicone made for mattresses, not cosmetic surgery, and had a high splitting rate.

The company's founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was sentenced to four years in prison for fraud in 2013.

Last year, Ms Hewson’s GP confirmed one of her PIP implants had split and leaked into her body following a breast cancer scare.

The BBC followed her journey as she tried to get them replaced.

She said she knew one implant had ruptured as she could feel it "moving around", adding that it was painful and caused her a lot of stress and worry.

Ms Hewson said she could have opted to have her implants removed under the NHS – but she had been told there was a year-long waiting list.

An NHS worker at York Hospital, she said the pain meant she could not wait any longer and she decided to get private treatment.

She said: "It's cost just over £11,000 to get the PIP implants removed because the NHS said I had to wait 12 months, and I can't wait 12 months".

'Free removal refused'

The vast majority of PIP implants were available in private clinics. Ms Hewson had hers fitted in the late 1990s at private clinic Transform at a cost of nearly £3,500.

Since finding out 14 years ago how unsafe they were, she has been trying to get them replaced but said she had not had funds at the time to do anything about it.

She said: "I went back to Transform and asked them if they could remove them free of charge, not necessarily replacing them, just taking them out so at least you felt safe, and they refused to do that."

Transform Healthcare said it followed the independent expert advice to the industry at the time "which did not recommend the routine removal of PIP breast implants".

Hundreds of women have had PIP implants removed for free on the NHS, but the NHS and private clinics in the UK say they will only take them out if a rupture can be proved.

Jean-Claude Mas police mugshot
PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas was jailed for four years for fraud in 2013 and died in 2019 [Reuters]

Jan Spivey, of the PIP Action Campaign, speaks on behalf of many of the victims of the scandal.

She was given PIP implants after she had a mastectomy because of breast cancer.

She is calling for a public inquiry so the voices of the women and families affected by the scandal can be heard.

"Lives have been lost and will continue to be lost until we have a proper policy in place," she told the BBC.

Jan Spivey
Jan Spivey wants a public inquiry to be conducted into the PIP scandal [BBC]

Following the PIP scandal, new measures are being introduced to improve patient safety around the products.

From 2025, the government says clinicians must give patients an implant card with information about any necessary warnings, precautions or measures.

Ms Hewson was in her mid-20s when she decided to have implants after breast feeding her daughter.

"My reasoning behind it was a personal thing. I didn’t feel like a woman any more because I lost them through having a child," she said.

"Unfortunately, I just got caught up in the scandal."

Ms Hewson has now had her PIP breast implants replaced.

She said the whole experience had been "debilitating" and that she was "just glad I'm coming to the end of it."

She said that she regretted getting them, and that she "just wouldn’t have it done" unless "you needed it doing, if you’ve had a mastectomy then it would be something to consider".

She urged anyone who was thinking about getting implants to think again.

"If it’s just a case you wanted to be two sizes bigger, I just would avoid it at all costs," she said.

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