There have been growing concerns in recent years about the availability and regulation of cosmetic procedures in the UK. In 2013 new proposals to regulate cosmetic procedures were discussed, with the Daily Mail reporting the need to "rein in cosmetic surgery cowboys", and The Daily Telegraph warning that anti-wrinkle treatments are "a crisis waiting to happen".
In 2013, an independent review was carried out on regulations governing the UK cosmetic surgery industry, which is worth an estimated £3.6 billion. The review was chaired by the NHS medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, who said anyone having cosmetic procedures should be better protected than at present and people carrying out cosmetic procedures should be trained to a high standard. "In fact, a person having a non-surgical cosmetic intervention has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush" his report to government concluded. He stated that “Dermal fillers are a particular cause for concern as anyone can set themselves up as a practitioner, with no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience. Nor are there sufficient checks in place with regard to product quality - most dermal fillers have no more controls than a bottle of floor cleaner. It is our view that dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen”. In 2013, a survey found that one in eight people who have had cosmetic treatments had the procedure carried out by an untrained friend or acquaintance.
Last week, in response to Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s review, it was announced that the GMC are bringing in stricter rules when it comes to cosmetic surgery in the UK. These new rules will come into force this week, and will ban such promotional tactics as ‘buy one get one free’ when it comes to undergoing cosmetic procedures in the UK. Doctors who break the rules could be struck off the medical register.
The General Medical Council rules, coming into force for private clinics and the NHS, make it clear that patients must not be rushed or cajoled into having surgery. The surgeon or practitioner who is carrying out the cosmetic procedure – be that a breast implant, face lift or L.A.FACE Botox injections – must fully explain the risks of any procedure and should make sure patients know who to contact if they experience any complications, say the guidelines.
According to the BBC, the GMC has been working with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which is launching its own set of professional standards for cosmetic surgeons. The RCS is also calling on the government to introduce new legislation at the next Queen's Speech in May to make sure surgeons are certified to carry out cosmetic operations. It is hoped the measures will put an end to botched and unethical procedures.
Today, the GMC are releasing a guide specifically for patients. It will include some things to consider, questions patients may want to ask, and it should give them an idea of what to expect from your doctor. This guide for patients will coincide with the GMC’s new ‘Guidance for doctors who offer cosmetic interventions’ coming into force. The GMC have developed this guidance in response to concerns about the safety and care of patients undergoing cosmetic procedures.
Speaking to the Cambridge News, Ahid Abood, a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon at Addenbrooke’s said the new regulations are not before time “due to a lack of regulation the cosmetic sector is inconsistent in the quality of care delivered to patients and lacking in robust measures to ensure quality and safety…most people seeking cosmetic treatments make the assumption that regulation is already in place and that their safety is a given, unfortunately that’s simply not the case”. Mr Abood stated that “Unfortunately, it’s an issue that only seems to be presented to the general public when something disastrous happens, such as the woeful lapse in product quality that occurred with the PIP breast implant scandal, or when a celebrity has a procedure that goes badly wrong…in reality, these sorts of things happen relatively frequently and ultimately are inevitable when such poor regulation and controls exists across a multi-billion pound industry with numerous interested parties”.
Under the new GMC guidance, doctors must not offer patients "two-for-one" deals or other promotions and prizes, nor make "unjustifiable claims about interventions". They must also seek their patients' consent to a procedure rather than delegating this to somebody else.
But Richard Price, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Addenbrooke's and Nuffield Hospitals, said while these regulations were welcome, they did not cover dentists, beauty practitioners or companies. "It only covers the doctors" he said. "And in terms of all the adverts for two for one offers that are around, the guidance is not for companies. The doctors are not generally speaking the ones offering the two for ones. I would like to see the whole industry regulated”.
In February 2016, The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reported that a record number of over 51,000 Britons underwent cosmetic surgery in 2015 and that the number of cosmetic operations in grew 13% overall between 2014 and 2015.
Consultant plastic surgeon and British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons President Michael Cadier stated “There’s no doubt that we are seeing an increase in demand for cosmetic surgery from both men and women. Whether this is inspired by celebrity culture and a recognition that the results of modern aesthetic procedures in the right hands can be subtle, natural-looking and attractive, what is most important is for patients to remember that surgery is on the whole life-changing and irreversible – far from a trivial ‘status symbol’ beauty treatment. The decision to undergo surgery must be well thought-out, with managed expectations, understanding the risks through fully informed consent and; most importantly; choosing the right specialist provider who is properly trained and accredited.”
As would be expected with the rise of cosmetic procedures, at Mayo Wynne Baxter, we have seen an increase in the number of cosmetic surgery claims, and know from our clients how traumatic it can be when cosmetic procedures go wrong. We are hopeful that these new regulations will prevent so many people becoming victims of procedures carried out by people who are not properly trained, or are not following the correct protocol. However, we are well aware that there are sadly still many instances where the regulations will not be complied with. If you feel you may have been a victim of substandard cosmetic surgery, please call 0800 84 94 101 and ask to speak to a member of our clinical negligence team.