We have spoken to many hundreds of women over the last few weeks about the PIP breast implant scandal and it is clear that a lot of you have the same worries and concerns. We have therefore put together some of the most frequently asked questions and our responses in the hope that this will go some way to putting your mind at rest.
1. What sort of symptoms are associated with PIP breast implants?
The Department of Health have issued guidelines to GPs indicating the type of symptoms they should be looking out for. Speaking to many of you who have received the most commonly reported complaints are:
- Pain in and around either of your breasts - whether constant or occasional, long-term or short-term, this could be a dull ache, sharp pain, a burning sensation, or “shooting” or “stabbing” pain;
- Lumps in or around either of your breasts, especially in your armpits;
- Itching on or around either of your breasts;
- Pins and needles sensation on or around either of your breasts, and/or down your arms;
- Change in the shape and/or deflation or swelling of either of your breasts;
- Redness on or around either of your breasts and/or unusual tenderness;
- Unusual tiredness and general poor health.
If you are suffering any of the above we would suggest that you make GP aware of immediately. Please remember that the above list is only a guidelines and so if you are suffering any indication of poor health please ensure you speak with your GP about this as soon as possible.
2. I am not currently suffering any adverse symptoms and/or my PIP implants have not ruptured – Do I have a compensation claim? Do I need to consult a specialist PIP solicitor
Regardless of symptoms or whether or not there has been a rupture the advice we are giving to clients is that they have the same opportunity of making a claim as anyone else that has PIP implants. The barristers we have spoken to are quite clear that the very fact women have received the PIP implants make them eligible to claim PIP compensation. This is because of the stress and worry that has been caused and also because if a decision is made to remove and/or replace the implants then they have had to under go an unnecessary surgical procedure.
We would also say that we have spoken to many clients who have said there have been no reported symptoms, but a scan and/or surgery revealed the PIP implants had either ruptured or bled, seriously risking their health. We have also been told of instances where the scan showed the PIP implants had not ruptured but it later transpired that they had bled into the surrounding area, causing serious health consequences.
Therefore, regardless of any symptoms, we are strongly recommending that anyone who has had PIP implants fitted initially obtain an MRI scan (or at least an ultrasound scan although medical opinion is this is not 100% effective) as soon as possible. You should be able to request a scan either on the NHS via your GP, or you can pay for this to be done with a private clinic.
A scan should reveal exactly what the situation is with your PIPs and (with the guidance of your doctors) let you make a decision on what your next step should be. It can also provide helpful evidence in respect of a PIP claim but in this respect is not essential. If you have already had removal/replacement surgery or are due to have this shortly then, so long as photographs are taken and a detailed medical report is produced regarding how the implants were found during the surgery, then this could be just as useful.
3. The NHS has refused to assist me – what can I do?
We are receiving reports that some GPs are not assisting women affected by PIPs as fully as would be hoped. It seems their response to PIP enquiries can vary, which may be partly related to which NHS Trust they are registered under. Sometimes it can be because no adverse symptoms have been reported and/or because the original surgery (i.e. the fitting of the breast implants) was carried out by a private clinic.
If your GP takes this stance regarding your request for a scan, do stress to them, not only any physical symptoms you have been suffering (if any), but also any psychological injuries you have suffered. These may include stress, anxiety and/or insomnia related to the unknown health risk that is facing you as a result of the PIP implants.
The Department of Health guidelines to GPs indicate that if a patient has already decided to have the implants removed then a scan is not necessary. If you are unsure of whether or not you are having the implants removed then you need to make your GP aware of this.
If your GP still refuses to provide you with a scan following this then please let us know. Our contact details can be found at the end of this article. Alternatively, if you are able to afford it, you can pay for the scan to be done via a private clinic and we would try and recover the cost of this for you as part of your PIP compensation claim.
As for replacement/removal surgery on the NHS, the NHS is offering free removal of the implants, but the majority of trusts are refusing to provide replacements. Of course for many women this defeats the object of having the implants fitted in the first place. Again, if these are the options presented to you then please let us know. If you chose to have further treatment carried out by a private clinic then again keep us informed so we can ensure the cost of the surgery is included within the claim.
4. The clinic who fitted my PIP implants are bankrupt and/or are no longer trading – can I still claim compensation?
In these circumstances, it can be more difficult to bring a PIP claim, but not necessarily impossible. Your solicitor will initially need to obtain (either from you and/or your medical records) the name of the surgeon who fitted your implants, as well as the name and contact details of the clinic by whom the surgeon was employed (if applicable) – both the head office and that of the clinic where the surgery was actually carried out (if different).
From here your solicitor will be able to check with Companies House and other sources as to whether the clinic and/or surgeon are still trading, whether they are bankrupt, or whether they now operate under another name and/or location.
Overall, professionals, such as medical clinics and their surgeons, should have professional indemnity insurance in place when they fitted your implants. This provides the financial cover the clinic and/or surgeon may need if they loose any claims for compensation that are made against them, such as those regarding PIP implants.
5. What if I have my PIP implants replaced and paid for privately - can I still claim compensation?
Yes, but ensure to keep your receipts and details of travelling expenses, loss of earnings (try and take unpaid leave or get yourself signed off work rather than take it as holiday), childcare fees, parking, reasonable accommodation fees and so forth. If you can prove you have reasonably incurred such losses, we can factor this into your claim for PIP compensation.
Similarly, if you have your PIP implants removed or replaced on the NHS free of charge, you could still bring a claim for compensation. This is because the compensation that would be sought for you does not only comprise of financial loss – it also takes into account any physical and/or psychological loss you have undergone due to the PIP implants.
6. Can I get my PIP implants replaced now, or do I have to wait for the outcome of my claim?
It is of course your choice as to what course of action you take, but our view is that obviously your health should come first. There is no legal reason to delay the removal/replacement of your PIP implants. If you are going to have them removed however we would suggest that if you are considering legal action you take certain precautionary measures. We would suggest that you get photographic evidence of your PIP implants before and after the further treatment, try and get a medical report following surgery detailing the state your implants were found in, and keep all evidence of your financial, physical, and psychological losses. If you are going to have surgery then please let us know so we can make sure your file is up to date.
7. What happens if I want to go to another surgeon/clinic to have my PIP implants replaced?
You have what lawyers call “a duty to mitigate your loss”. This means that you have to try and keep costs down if you can otherwise the defendant will argue it is unfair. Therefore in the case of PIPs, if the clinic who provided the implants are offering free removal and replacement and you choose the most expensive consultant in the country to carry out the surgery instead, there may by arguments that this was unreasonable. We would make every effort to help recover the cost as part of your PIP compensation claim but there are no guarantees.
We do however feel that it would be hard for a Court to criticise a client who has lost faith in the original clinic which fitted the PIP implants, and has decided to pay another clinic for further treatment. Therefore while “mitigation” may be something that the clinics will try and argue we don’t think it will carry that much weight.
8. I cannot afford to pay privately for replacement surgery and the NHS will not replace my PIP implants – what can I do?
Unfortunately there is no quick fix. If the clinics are denying liability and refusing to fund your treatment then that is something we are going to have to fight for a part of your claim and this can take time.
If you find yourself in this difficult position then as discussed above, we would suggest that you try and obtain a scan and notify us and your GP of the outcome. Your GP can advise you on where you stand medically and we can formally notify the defendant of the details of your particular case in what is called a letter of claim. Within this we can make it clear that we would be looking for them to fund the treatment you need.
9. What if the clinic refuse to give me back my PIP implants after removal and/or accuse me of tampering with them?
We would ask that you discuss with your surgeon and/or clinic the return of your PIP implants to you after the removal/replacement surgery BEFORE you undergo the further treatment. Stress to them the importance of the PIP implants as direct evidence for the purposes of your case. However, do bear in mind that, if you PIP implants have ruptured, your surgeon has to consider the health risk and may not be able to release them to you.
If the clinic refuse or are unable to release your PIP implants to you, request that the surgeon takes photographs and provides a report regarding the state of your PIP implants just prior to their removal.
Many clinics refuse to release PIP implants on the basis that they are toxic waste. Sometimes this can be overcome by providing the clinic with a written disclaimer promising that, if released to you, you will destroy the implants as toxic waste when you no longer need them. However, as per our previous press releases, please be careful of what you sign in this regard!
If the clinic does let you keep your PIP implants once removed, please keep them in the fridge (not the freezer) and take your own photos of them as soon as possible.
We have received reports from some of you that you are concerned that the clinics may accuse you of tampering with the PIP implants once they have been removed and are back in your possession. Our view is that this would be a very weak argument for the clinics to make given the sheer volume of women affected in similar circumstances. Further, if they make this allegation, it is highly likely that an appropriate medical expert can be instructed to prove you have not tampered with your PIP implants in any way.
10. I need legal advice what should I do?
An added extra to our top ten for no extra charge! If you still need advice from a solicitor then we would suggest you contact us without delay. We have a specialist team ready and waiting to deal with your queries.
Slee Blackwell are also offering PIP clients a No Win - No Fee arrangement. This means that, if you win your case, you will receive your PIP compensation with no bill for our basic costs. This is because if you win we will seek our legal fees,and any disbursements (expenses) incurred in connection with your case from those held responsible for the implants you received.
If there are expenses to be paid as the claim progresses (like for medical reports or Court fees) we will pay them. You will not be asked to contribute at all. We are paid a success fee from your compensation so you will not be asked to find the money for this. The success fee will be decided on a cases by cases basis but will be no more than 25% of your injury compensation.
As we say not all firms are the same and not all firms are offering the same arrangement. Our view is that this offer along with the personal service you will receive from Slee Blackwell makes it the very best offer available.
If you would like to discuss your PIP claim and receive free initial legal advice from specialist PIP solicitors then please contact us by:
- Telephone 0808 1391592 and speak directly with one of our PIP lawyers; or
- Email the Head of our PIP Team, John Hasson at email@example.com; or
- Fax your query to us on 01392 494773; or
- Face book: Contact us via our page http://www.facebook.com/PIPimplantsupdate - Pips Implants Latest News and Legal Advice