Controversial hip implants land NHS with huge repair bill

The DePuy plant at Tingley, Leeds
The DePuy plant at Tingley, Leeds
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TAXPAYERS face a bill of millions of pounds in Yorkshire for the costs of treating patients fitted with controversial metal-on-metal hip implants.

Official NHS figures say more than 300 people from the region have undergone major revision surgery to overcome debilitating problems linked mainly to implants made by manufacturer DePuy which is facing a host of legal claims.

But the Yorkshire Post can reveal the NHS faces picking up the costs for years to come of monitoring and in some cases treating more than 3,000 patients, who have been given a range of artificial metal joints following an alert about their use on 49,000 patients nationwide.

Health chiefs in Rotherham estimate extra costs of both monitoring and surgery could total nearly £3m over the next three years, putting further pressure on already hard-pressed NHS budgets.

Official figures show rates of follow-up surgery after initial hip operations are particularly high after treatment at Rotherham Hospital and the privately-operated Clifton Park NHS Treatment Centre in York where more metal-on-metal (MoM) implants were used often on younger patients as it was believed they would last longer.

One legal firm in Yorkshire is dealing with more than 300 claims for compensation against DePuy, which withdrew its ASR hip implants in 2010 amid worldwide concerns over their safety. Around 10,000 have been used in the UK.

Ministers told MPs this week that more stringent regulations over the use of new medical devices are being drawn up.

Analysis by NHS officials in Rotherham is believed to be the first in the region setting out a “reasonable worst case scenario” of the costs of surveillance and revision surgery.

It said there were more than 600 patients in the area who would need annual check-ups at a cost of £220,000 in the next three years, estimating 200 operations could be required costing £2.7m.

It added: “Notwithstanding the uncertainty, there is likely to be a significant cost arising from dealing with the legacy of metal-on-metal hips in Rotherham.”

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the NHS in the town, where the local trust is in a cash crisis, could ill afford further costs and called for the Government to make extra resources available.

“It’s a national issue and needs to be dealt with at a national level, as well as through the courts,” she said.

Associate solicitor Richard Starkie, of Pryers in York, which is representing more than 300 people given DePuy implants, said all had undergone revision surgery, with many needing further operations and other long-term care.

“We are trying to recover these costs from DePuy in these cases, not only to help our clients but also to relieve the NHS of these costs in the future,” he said.

Health service officials in Rotherham said replacement costs of DePuy implants were being picked up by the company but ongoing surveillance and treatment costs linked with other metal-on-metal hips would be funded by the NHS.

David Tooth, chairman of NHS Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The overall financial impact is difficult to ... quantify at this stage but we will be funding it because we believe that this is the right thing to do for our patients.”

A DePuy spokesman said it was committed to “addressing reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment for reasons related to the recall including revision surgery if necessary”.

“It is important that ASR patients follow up with their surgeon for evaluation of their hip implant even if they are not experiencing symptoms,” he said.

The Department of Health said: “The medical device alert showed that some groups of patients with metal-on-metal implants should be reviewed annually for at least five years or even for life.

“We would expect the local NHS to be doing this and to ensure they have the necessary budget.”