New Rules For Cosmetic Treatments Issued

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New Rules For Cosmetic Treatments Issued - 12/04/16

New General Medical Council (GMC) rules for cosmetic treatments, published on 12th April 2016, are an important milestone in efforts to rid the industry of practitioners prioritizing profit over the safety and welfare of their patients. The new guidelines which come into force in June, cover both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, and are aimed at ensuring that prospective patients clearly understand the potential risks and benefits involved in having a treatment carried out. The rules come in response to a review of the UK cosmetic industry, carried out by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh in 2013, following the PIP breast implant scandal, which exposed serious flaws in the industry’s standards of safety and patient protection.

Addressing Problems With The Current System

One of the major problems identified by the review was the exploitation of vulnerable patients, often young women, by unscrupulous and sometimes unqualified practitioners who fail to provide proper advice or aftercare. In an industry worth an estimated £3.6 billion a year, cosmetic procedures are often aggressively promoted, while the potential risks involved are downplayed or ignored. In particular, health authorities are concerned about patients being rushed or pressured into agreeing to a procedure without fully understanding the possible consequences of their decision. This means that procedures often do not achieve the desired results, while the lack of industry-wide standards means that patients have limited recourse in the event of a procedure bring botched or complications developing in the aftermath.

The New Guidelines For Cosmetic Procedures

Under the new rules, so-called ‘two-for-one’ offers and cosmetic procedures being offered as prizes will be banned, while practitioners will be obliged to advertise their services in a responsible and factual manner, and must avoid making "unjustifiable claims about interventions". Once a patient agrees to a procedure, they must be given a minimum of two weeks as a ‘cooling-off’ period to consider their decision before the treatment is carried out. Doctors must personally seek a patient’s consent to a procedure, and must provide them with the necessary information to enable them to make an informed decision. Patients must also be provided with a point of contact in the event of complications following a procedure, and complete records of consultations and outcomes must be compiled and retained.

Effective Regulation Of The Cosmetic Surgery Industry

The GMC’s new guidelines will be backed up by a list of professional standards for cosmetic surgeons issued by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), while both bodies are also lobbying for the government to introduce legislation obliging cosmetic surgeons to be professionally certified to carry out the procedures they offer. Under the new system practitioners can be struck off for breaching either the GMC or RCS guidelines, and this at least represents a long overdue level of regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry in the UK, and protection for the estimated 51,000 people who undergo cosmetic procedures every year.