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Tighter regulation of cosmetic procedures needed in an industry still ripe for change

Posted: 21/04/2017

This April marks the fourth anniversary of a scathing report by the NHS on the regulation of cosmetic procedures, which stated that ‘dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen’. The report was commissioned in the wake of a scandal six years ago, when breast implants were made with industrial instead of medical-grade silicon.

Despite this, a BBC poll in October 2016 found that as many as 32% of all women are considering cosmetic surgery. Among those under 35, the number rises to 45%. The continued interest comes at a time when there are also increasing concerns that unqualified beauty consultants are creating a new group of patients whose features have been changed, sometimes irreversibly, by negligent non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The NHS may then be left to pick up the tab for repairing or revising negligent cosmetic disability.

How are non-surgical cosmetic procedures regulated?

Despite the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reporting an annual increase of 13% across all cosmetic procedures, this remains one of the least regulated areas of medicine. There are currently no binding regulations in place to prevent any keen beauty consultant from performing non-surgical cosmetic procedures, leaving a market worth £3.6billion without clear legal care standards.

Some organisations, such as Save Face, try to direct the public to appropriately trained practitioners, as the clear financial incentives have led to a saturated market, with under-qualified beauty consultants performing procedures which normally take doctors many years of rigorous medical training to master.

The slow pace of change

This year, the Royal College of Surgeons will launch a new register for cosmetic surgeons. To qualify, practitioners will need to prove that they have completed a certain number of procedures and provide a reference. In addition, the advisory body Health Education England has developed a post-graduate level qualification for those injecting dermal fillers.

However, for the moment, neither the register nor the qualification will be compulsory and the multi-million pound cosmetic industry will continue to operate without regulations, leaving underqualified individuals still able to offer cosmetic procedures.

Unresolved issues

Dr Rosemary Leonard, who sat on the review panel for the NHS report, has recently stated: "Even today, a filler in your face is no more regulated than a ballpoint pen. Anyone can put a filler in someone's face. I am so sad and angry that the Government has done so little about our recommendations."

Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team is experienced in representing patients who have received negligent cosmetic surgery. Each case is of course unique, but it is possible to claim damages where cosmetic surgery has caused psychological or physical injuries.

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