Up to five people have had tattoos removed on the NHS in the Black Country, it can be revealed today.
Bosses are however refusing to reveal what designs were removed from what parts of the body, and whether the patients were male or female.
Chiefs have also refused to reveal the cost of the procedures to the public purse, and their decision has now been upheld by the Government’s data watchdog The Information Commissioner’s office. The ICO said it was believed it could have ‘significant impact on the mental health’ of the people involved.
The Black Country Cluster of PCTs would only reveal a banding of the numbers of people whose procedures it funded, saying it was ‘between one and five’. All of the cases were in Walsall in the two years ending in April 2012. The revelation comes after Cheryl Cole made headlines by having flowers tattooed on her backside.
Health bosses insist they are not funding people to make bad choices and these cases were exceptional.Joanna Kail, spokeswoman for Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, which replaced the PCT under the reorganisation of the NHS from April, said: “Surgery for tattoo removal is rarely funded by the NHS
“In exceptional cases, cosmetic surgery may be required to protect a patient’s health, for example, if a doctor thinks their tattoo is causing them significant distress.
“The CCG has a robust process in place to ensure all funding requests are carefully considered and managed. This is through an Individual Funding Request panel which consists of specialists including Consultants who will decide whether treatment on the NHS is appropriate.
“Walsall CCG took over responsibility for commissioning healthcare services for the people of Walsall in April 2013. It would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment on decisions made by our predecessor organisation.”
The Black Country Cluster only released a banding of numbers for these ‘clinically exceptional cases’ after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The ICO backed the cluster’s decision, after a complaint about how the original request was handled. The ICO said: “In this case it was explained that there would be reasonable expectation by data subjects that specific information linked to the location of the tattoos and when they were removed would be placed into the public domain.”
South Staffordshire PCT did not fund any tattoo removals in the same two-year period. Bosses stressed such procedures were not routinely available on the NHS, only where there was evidence the designs were doing harm to the people wearing them, or in proven cases of rape tattoo.