The cosmetic industry is booming and is estimated to be worth over £3.6 billion in the UK. You may be surprised to hear that procedures such as face-lifts, dermal fillers, Botox, laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) have been carried out almost entirely unregulated for years.
Patients who have suffered from botched cosmetic surgery are often vulnerable and assume there are already regulations in place to protect them.
However previous attempts to implement safeguards have failed because they have only been voluntary and so the unscrupulous and unsafe rogue clinics and salons have simply ignored them as there is no consequence to breaking the rules.
The silicone breast implants made by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), were banned in 2010 following a scandal that exposed significant lapses in product quality, aftercare and record keeping. The boss of the company was eventually sentenced to four years in prison and thousands of women were awarded compensation for negligence.
This led Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director for England, to carry out a review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions.
In April 2013 the General Medical Council (GMC) published a guide for medically qualified doctors who undertake non-surgical medical aesthetic procedures which came into force in June 2016.
The new guidelines will apply to medically qualified doctors who practice both on the NHS and in private practice. As a result of the recommendations the key outcomes are that all medical qualified practitioners must:
- Be satisfied that they have consent themselves rather than delegate this to somebody else (or other valid authority) before providing treatment;
- Market services responsibly which will put a stop to two for one offers. It also includes a ban on offering procedures for prizes;
- Patients must be given time and information to make a well thought out informed decision about whether to go ahead;
- When considering requests for interventions on children and young people particular care must be undertaken;
- Doctors are advised to work within their competence and recognise their limits;
– Patients’ vulnerabilities and psychological needs must be considered
Stephen Cannon, Vice President of the RCS and Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee,said: ‘Our professional standards for cosmetic surgery, coupled with the GMC’s new guidance, will raise the bar and make absolutely clear what we expect of all surgeons working in the private sector. ‘The message to surgeons and doctors working in the cosmetic surgery industry is simple: if you are not working to the surgical standards we have set out today, you should not be treating patients at all. We, and regulators including the GMC, will do everything in our powers to protect patients and to stop unscrupulous individuals from practising.’(1)
However, non-medical practitioners such as beauty therapists remain unregulated which mean they will be able to continue to provide treatments such as Botox, laser treatments and teeth whitening with little or no training which will continue to put thousands of customers at risk as this legislation doesn’t cover these people.
Another worry is that as the cost of registering may push up prices for regulated practitioners which will lead to people considering the cheaper alternatives at a beauty salon continuing the cycle of unregulated and potentially negligent treatment being provided to the unsuspecting consumer.
Our specialist cosmetics Partner stated:- ‘ Unfortunately we are seeing more cases where individuals have had cosmetic treatment which has gone wrong. These cases can be extremely difficult to win, not only in order to be successful is an expensive report required from an expert. Often these unregulated salons do not have insurance or the funds to then pay the compensation that is awarded. This is then devastating to individuals who have already suffered at the hand of rogue practitioners. The new rules will hopefully start to give the consumer some protection and the hope is that these regulations will become mandatory for everyone who is carrying out cosmetic procedures.’
Hopefully the new rules will begin to reduce the number of injuries caused by professional practitioners but the fear is that they simply have not gone far enough to protect customers but the regulations are a welcomed move in the right direction.