Women had breast implants removed after NHS wrongly told her they’d ruptured

Government finally sets up national register after cosmetic breast surgery scandal that ruined British women's lives
Government finally sets up national register after cosmetic breast surgery scandal that ruined British women's lives

A 66 year old woman from Hampshire was forced to undergo unnecessary surgery to remove her breast implants after a hospital incorrectly told her they had ruptured.

Clinicans at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust carried out an ultrasound on the woman after she had been experiencing pain in her neck and had enlarged lymph nodes in 2018.

Staff told her that one of her breast implants had ruptured and that both would need to be removed, otherwise her health issues would worsen.

She was then left waiting months for a surgery date and says due to fears the implants were “leaking into her body” she decided to have the operation in a private hospital in January 2019.

It was only after her operation that it was found her implants were intact.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), following an investigation into a complaint against the trust, has found there were no “conclusive signs the implant had ruptured” according to radiology experts.

Under NHS guidance for breast imaging standards, the patient should have had an MRI scan.

This wasn’t done and the PHSO has ruled if there had been an MRI it would have been made clear the implants had not been ruptured and she would have avoided surgery.

Her story comes after a report in 2021 from the Ombudsman which warned the NHS over recurrent failings in the way X-Rays and scans are reported and followed up across the NHS service.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the PHSO: “I was anxious about my health, especially because of the pain I was having, along with other symptoms like pins and needles.

“I couldn’t get hold of anyone to find out when the operation would be or if I was even on a waiting list.

“I couldn’t stop worrying and I was in a lot of pain. I was desperate to have the implant removed so I contacted a private surgeon and they said it could be done within eight days.”

She said it was a “massive shock” to find out the implant was intact and that she had been put through the upset and operation “for nothing.”

“The NHS is meant to be the best in the world, which I still believe, but it is being let down by people not taking responsibility and poor administration,” she added.

Rebecca Hilsenrath the government’s new PHSO (PHSO)
Rebecca Hilsenrath the government’s new PHSO (PHSO)

The PHSO has recommended Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust apologise to the woman and create an action plan to avoid the mistake being repeated.

It also asked the trust to consider making a payment of £8,771 to the woman for the “unnecessary surgery and for the distress caused.”

According to the PHSO the trust has complied with its recommendations.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, said, “When something goes wrong in the way that x-rays, MRIs or other scans are requested, carried out, or reported on, it can have significant consequences for patients and their families.

“In this case, a woman was left worried about her health and felt she had no other choice than to opt for a private operation. Finding out the surgery was unnecessary exacerbated her distress and anxiety.

“Correct interpretation of scans and following relevant guidance to carry out the right type of imaging for each situation is vital to ensure that patients receive the care they need.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire Hospitals said: “We are very sorry that this patient had unnecessary surgery.  We have acted on the recommendations of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) around the provision of MRI scans to conclusively determine whether breast implants have ruptured requiring surgical intervention.”

“Every patient is important at Hampshire Hospitals, and we apologise unreservedly for the delay which led to this lady paying a private healthcare provider to carry out an unnecessary operation solely on the basis of NHS scans and ultrasound.  This is not what we would want for any of our patients.”