October 10, 2018

Are patients who receive cosmetic surgery adequately protected?

A review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions by Professor Keogh in 2013 highlighted serious concerns with the industry. The paper proposed more rigorous regulation and made a number of suggestions to protect patients.

Following this review, the General Medical Council (GMC) issued new guidance called: “Guidance for Doctors who Offer Cosmetic Interventions”. The aim of this is to ensure doctors provide the right standard of care, and covers issues such as:

  • knowing the limits of a doctor’s competency
  • obtaining consent
  • clearly communicating the outcome, risks and benefits of treatment
  • giving patients time to reflect on the information provided
  • considering a patients psychological needs and their vulnerability; and
  • responsible marketing.

Alongside the guidance the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) developed professional standard for all surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery.

Breaching either set of guidelines could result in the GMC initiating a fitness-to-practice investigation.

The RCS, through the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee, have also introduced a voluntary cosmetic surgery certification scheme. The aim of the scheme is to recognise surgeons who have suitable training, qualifications and experience to perform cosmetic surgery. To gain the certification and be added to the list of certified surgeons, applicants must complete a professionals behaviours masterclass: a two-day course ensuring surgeons have understand the appropriate skills and behaviours required to provide cosmetic surgery. Applicants must then submit a portfolio of evidence of their skills and experience.

It would seem that these are more than adequate protections for the British consumer, but…

Is this enough?

Following a recent study, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics felt the need to call for all cosmetic surgeons to be properly trained and certified and a complete ban on non-medical invasive procedures for patients under the age of 18, amongst other things.

Increasing public scrutiny of personal image is being blamed for people turning to cosmetic surgery as a quick fix. New plastic surgery games and makeup apps have been particularly scrutinised for targeting children. And, more recently, brands have been expanding into the field – like Superdrug who are offering high street Botox.

In a growing industry more still needs to be done to protect patients from being victims of “botched” cosmetic surgery.

Things to consider before “ going under the knife”

- What the aftercare policy covers and for how long you are protected by the aftercare policy

- Whether you have budgeted for the cost of corrective surgery should you require it

- Whether the cosmetic surgeon has indemnity insurance

- Whether the surgeon is certified by checking the RCS website

- Getting a second opinion and discussing alternative treatments

Of course, it is good that those who feel they need cosmetic surgery have access to it. However, when it is sold as a ‘quick fix’ for people’s problems, the potential risks that go along with it are glossed over, possibly endangering the public.

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