27/03/2012 21:16 BST | Updated 28/03/2012 04:55 BST

PIP Implant Alarm Bells Were Ignored For Years, claim MPs

Succcessive governments were warned of rising evidence about the inadequacy of PIP implants but did very little to stop them.

This is the finding from a report by the influential Health Select Committee into PIP breast implants.

The group of MPs criticised the "inadequate" response by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) in warning women about the dangers of the faulty implants.

Almost 50,000 British women are believed to have been given the implants, manufactured by French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).

They were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses and have been linked to rupture and swelling in the body.

The Committee expressed concern that, given what was known about PIP implants before 2012, "there wasn't greater vigilance, especially when PIP implants were significantly cheaper and were not the implant of choice for surgeons".

The change in government after the 2010 election didn't improve the situation, according to the committee.

They criticised the "surprising" fact that "urgent action to gather evidence and communicate with affected women only gathered pace in December 2011". They called for a review, led by Earl Howe, to investigate "why action was not taken sooner".

Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the Health Committee, said:

”We are broadly supportive of the immediate actions taken by the Government in response to the events of December 2011, but we believe the wider facts surrounding the use of PIP breast implants raise some important concerns:

“The information available is acknowledged to be insufficient either to allow the regulator to make evidence-based judgements about the safety or otherwise of implants that were in widespread use, or to allow patients’ clinicians to know whether their individual patient is affected. This is clearly unsatisfactory."

“There have been worrying suggestions that the quality of professional advice available to patients may have been variable – and has in some cases fallen short of the standards which are required of a doctor registered with the GMC. We believe these are issues for the GMC itself to take forward, in parallel with the work of the reviews led by Sir Bruce Keogh and Earl Howe.”

In February one of the most senior managers in the NHS acknowledged many women faced "significant uncertainty" about their implants in the months and years to come.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director, said in the wake of the PIP scandal: "We are dealing with significant uncertainty. It's that level of uncertainty which creates the anxiety with relation to the 'ticking timebomb'."

The government's advice to women with PIP implants has not changed; women are entitled to have their implants removed free of charge on the NHS in England (and have them replaced free in Wales) - but officials say there is no reason for the implants to be removed as a matter of course and that women affected should talk to their GP first.