Health Secretary Andrew Lansley vowed to sue cosmetic surgery companies who refuse to give free operations to women wanting their PIP breast implants removed yesterday (11 January), in a scandal that threatens to engulf the private cosmetics industry.
Lansley promised to "aggressively" pursue private clinics that will not allow free removals of the cut-price implants, thought to affect around 40,000 women in the UK.
His announcement came as The Harley Medical Group - the biggest buyer of the sub-standard PIP (Poly Implants Prosthese) from France - said it would not pay for the removal of the implants. Another major provider of PIP implants, Transform, also insisted women would have to pay for removal.
The Harley Medical Group's surgeons operated on 13,900 women between 2001 and 2010, while Transform did around 4,000 implants. Many of operations were for women having breast reconstruction after cancer surgery.
Authorities in France, Germany and other countries have advised that PIP implants be removed, after it was discovered they contained silicone gel filler of an industrial grade intended for mattresses.
A focus group, chaired by the NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, said last week that it could find no evidence that the implants were dangerous or more likely to rupture - but its findings were not conclusive, as the clinics affected did not have thorough enough data to work from.
Some companies which did a small number of PIP implants, including BMI Healthcare, Nuffield Health and Spire, have said they will remove and replace them free of charge.
In a statement to the Commons, Lansley reassured women affected by the scandal that they could receive free removal - but not replacement - of the implants on the NHS. However, he made clear his intentions to recoup this money from private practices via the courts.
The government is now set for a major showdown with The Harley Medical Group and other private cosmetic clinics refusing free removal of the implants.
The Harley Medical Group's chairman Mel Braham said the company did not have the resources to offer free removals and put the blame on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) not doing its job properly.
"We're an innocent victim like everyone else, we're attempting to do our best for our patients ... We can't take on this whole thing on our own, especially when it wasn't our fault," he told the BBC.
What do you think? Should women be offered removal and replacement of the implants free of charge on the NHS? Or should private clinics foot the bill? Do you sympathise with women affected by the scandal? Or are you concerned after having PIP implants yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Twitter.