A private British clinic that fitted almost 14,000 women with breast implants made by French firm PIP said on Wednesday it would not remove them free of charge despite calls from the government.
The Harley Medical Group, which operated on 13,900 women between September 2001 and March 2010, claimed the cost of replacing the implants would put it out of business.
The health scare was sparked when authorities in France last month advised 30,000 women with the implants produced by the now-bankrupt firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) to have them removed.
Although fears of a link to cancer are not yet proven, there were concerns that they could rupture dangerously.
No resources to re-implant
The British government said there was no evidence to recommend that women with the potentially faulty implants should have them removed but said that women who had their implants on the National Health Service (NHS) could have them replaced without charge if they were concerned.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Harley, which fitted more PIP implants than any other private British cosmetic surgery company, said it had been auditing its rupture records "for many years now and has not found, to date, cause for concern".
Mel Braham, the firm's chairman, told the BBC: "We don't have the resources to re-implant".
He called for the NHS to carry out the operations, blaming MHRA, an agency of the Department of Health, for licensing the implants in Britain.
Private companies urged to step in
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley repeated his promise that the government would remove, but not replace, PIP implants fitted by private companies if they refused or were no longer in business.
However, he urged private companies to step in, saying it was unfair to charge the taxpayer.
"I believe that it is right that those who receive their care privately should also receive a similar level of service and reassurance from their care provider, however I do not think it is fair to the taxpayer for the NHS to foot the bill for patients who had their operation privately," he told parliament.
Wales would remove implants for free
"But I want to be absolutely clear that the NHS will continue to be there to support any woman if a clinic that implanted PIP implants no longer exists or refuses to remove the breast implants," he added.
Transform, another private surgery, announced earlier in the week that it would charge around R35 000 to remove any PIP implants that it inserted.
Some 40,000 British women are believed to have received PIP implants. The Welsh parliament announced on that the NHS in Wales would remove and replace privately fitted implants for free.
(Sapa, January 2012)