Regulation of cosmetic surgery

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The Government is considering whether the cosmetic surgery industry should be more effectively regulated.  The medical director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, has considered a number of areas and made a series of recommendations:

Advertising and Information

  •  The amount and nature of the information and advice given to patients needs to be improved. He also questioned whether sufficient time is allowed for patients to make an informed decision on the procedure, the surgeon and potential side effects.
  • Advertising has fuelled a dramatic increase in the number of purely cosmetic procedures in the last 10 years, and the concern therefore is that patients fail to understand that they are undergoing serious surgery that might have lifelong implications, and also that potential complications can be serious.
  • Sir Bruce has recommended that it is the surgeon performing the operation who should ensure that the patient understands the nature of the procedure, its limitation, risks and implications. 
  • Existing advertising guidelines and restrictions should be updated and enforced.
  • Financial inducements such as “2 for the price of 1” offers with time limits and other “deals” to promote cosmetic procedures should be banned. He highlighted offers such as “mother and daughter packages”, or where the cost of cosmetic surgery was offered as a prize or award.  Sir Bruce found these to be “socially irresponsible”. 
  • Pre-procedure information should be developed based on clinical evidence and should be standardised throughout the industry.  Input should be sought from patient organisations, with overall responsibility for this being given to The Royal College of Surgeons’ Specialist Committee on Cosmetic Surgery. 

Training and Reaccreditation

  • Sir Bruce’s concern was that practitioners are appropriately qualified to perform the surgery.  Current regulation is conducted by the General Medical Council and practising surgeons, except those who were practising before April 2002, should be enrolled on the GMC’s specialist register.  That leaves a wide field for surgeons who have been practising before the start of the register and moreover who may not be familiar with advances in the cosmetic surgery industry.
  • During their training within the NHS surgeons will have had experience in, for example, ear, nose and throat plastic surgery or maxillofacial but they will have had little, if any, training and experience in purely cosmetic surgery yet are drawn to it because it is a lucrative area of practice.
  • The review felt that their inclusion on the register would not be sufficient and that given the advances in cosmetic surgery there should be a regular review, supervision of training and re-accreditation system in place.  The review also recommended that all organisations providing cosmetic surgery should have a doctor on their board as medical director, so there is someone who is professionally accountable for all work carried out by the members or employees of the organisation.  

Complaints and Redress 

  • At present, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman deals with complaints within the NHS.  It is recommended that the Ombudsman’s remit be extended to cover not just cosmetic procedures but the whole of the private healthcare sector.  
  • Appropriate insurance should be in place and all individuals performing cosmetic procedures should carry professional indemnity insurance sufficient to cover the type of surgery and potential risk.  

It is not yet known whether the Government will adopt these recommendations and the extent to which, or when, they will be implemented.

If you have been affected by any issues concerning cosmetic surgery, please contact us today.

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