Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 105)



  100. I am sorry, I thought you said in your earlier evidence that your operation was for remedial purposes?
  (Ms Livsey) It was, yes.

  101. I suppose it could be cosmetic. Could you in theory have had that operation if you had wished to at the time on the National Health Service?
  (Ms Livsey) To tell you the truth, before I left for the US I did not even know that they existed.

  102. When you came back could you have had that operation in theory on the NHS?
  (Ms Livsey) No.
  (Ms Irwin) I think there was a time, if I might just come in on this, when if a patient could go and see a psychiatrist, if they were a psychiatric patient, and the psychiatrist said it would behove them to have the operation they could but, I mean, who wants to actually go and see a psychiatrist. Then when the people wanted them removed, back to the psychiatrist and so on. This is very embarrassing. The psychiatrist would condone this and say "Yes, she does". Some would and some would not. I think that was what tended to happen then if it was to be done on the National Health, a psychiatrist came into the picture very often.
  (Ms Livsey) I did not feel justified to approach the NHS.

  103. I was wondering as a matter of fact whether the operation could have been carried out on the National Health Service?
  (Ms Livsey) I do not think my doctor would have agreed anyway.

Dr Stoate

  104. Just briefly for information, Chairman. The NHS does pay for breast reductions in certain situations. In terms of breast reconstruction, it will pay if there has been destructive surgery, radiotherapy, it will pay then. It will also pay if there are congenital defects, if somebody, for example, is born with the absence of one breast, the NHS will cover that. The NHS has always covered a certain amount of it but only for medical reasons. It does not need a psychiatrist, the GP is able to refer people to plastic surgeons for those reasons. If it is deemed cosmetic the NHS does not pay.
  (Ms Livsey) It does.
  (Ms Heasman) It depends where you live. I know this for a fact, it does not matter what your circumstances are, it is where you live and whether that area health authority will. 14 per cent of the women I surveyed attempted to get their breast augmentation done on the NHS but were unsuccessful and only three per cent of those were referred to a psychologist.


  105. Are there any further questions from colleagues or any further points that the witnesses want to add, issues we did not pick up with you that you thought we might? Ms Heasman?
  (Ms Heasman) I only just want to say, I am going to blow my own trumpet here, why not? I have been doing this for over five years now. As I said in my text, a lot of companies, surgeons, etc, do not tell women of my existence because I paint the picture warts and all. I am not here to say "Breast implants are great, you should go and have them done". I am not here to say also that they are bad and you should not have them done. I am here to say if you are going to do it make sure you do it properly. I run a non profit making organisation. I do not make a penny out of it. It is run purely by ladies, £20 a year it costs them to become a member and I keep them informed. I put them in touch with other ladies. I get them to fill out questionnaires. I get them back and I evaluate it and that is how I can give you these figures. I would like some help in that respect.
  (Ms Livsey) Can we just add that we are not against cosmetic surgery, what we are concerned about is the safety of it.
  (Ms Heasman) Yes.
  (Ms Irwin) Could I say in terms of the reportage of problems, because we can only all of us—we are only amateurs—do it in an ad hoc sort of way. This year, for instance, I verified with Christine Williamson of SS Support that she has had over a thousand people largely with silicone gel, I think, but certainly with implants, which will be mostly silicone gel because most implants which are used are silicone gel, at least a thousand people on her helpline talking about problems, either systemic illness problems or local problems. This gives some sort of amateur guide, if you like.
  (Ms Heasman) I have just over 3,000 women on my list.

  Chairman: Can I thank you for your participation and for your written evidence, particularly to those of you who have shared your own personal experience which has been very helpful and very informative as far as the Committee is concerned. Thank you very much.

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