GMC announces new cosmetic surgery guidelines to protect patients

Posted: 12/04/2016


Following a review of the cosmetic surgery industry by Sir Bruce Keogh in 2013, the industry has been waiting patiently for changes to be implemented. During his review, Sir Bruce found few safeguards for patients, particularly for those undergoing non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as dermal fillers. His report at the time concluded that: “…a person having a non-surgical cosmetic intervention has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush”. 

Following Sir Bruce Keogh’s report, the General Medical Council (GMC) has been working with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which is now launching its own set of professional standards for cosmetic surgery. 

According to the new guidance issued by the GMC, which is expected to be put in place from June 2016, there will be a strong focus on stopping doctors from offering patients “two for one” deals, promotions and prizes, and cracking down on anyone making unjustifiable claims about procedures. 

The guidance looks to cover acceptable practice(s) for both surgical and non-surgical procedures, to include facelifts and Botox. Anyone who fails to adhere to the rules could face being struck off the medical register. 

The new rules include: 

  • Doctors must make sure that patients are given enough time and information before they decide whether to have a procedure and patients should not feel rushed or pressured 
  • A patient’s psychological needs must be considered before any procedures are undertaken 
  • Doctors must recognise and work within the limits of their competence 
  • Patients should be given written information about procedures being undertaken 
  • Continuity of care must be provided so patients know who to contact if they experience any complications 
  • Full and accurate records of consultations should be made. 

Professor Terence Stephenson, chairman of the GMC said: “Most doctors who practise in this area do so to a high standard but we do sometimes come across poor practice, and it is important that patients are protected from this and doctors understand what is expected from them.” 

Amy Milner, solicitor in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, comments: “We have been waiting for further guidelines to come into force since Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of the cosmetic surgery industry in 2013. Sadly, we have come across many people who have had cosmetic surgery and the results have either not been what was expected or the surgeon has failed to carry out the procedure to a high standard. A typical problem is that patients are not appropriately advised before their operations about what to expect from a procedure. There are also those with pre-existing psychological problems whose needs have not been considered or addressed before any procedures are undertaken, which can often lead to devastating results. 

“We welcome the new guidelines published by the GMC and hope that anyone having cosmetic surgery from now on will be better protected and that surgeons have a clearer understanding of exactly what is expected of them.”


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