Medical practice

Calls for cosmetic surgery shake-up

Public calls for tighter regulation of the cosmetic surgery sector in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal have been widely reported in the media.

News headlines include "Breast operations 'must not be sold like double glazing'," (The Daily Telegraph), "Tighter restrictions on cosmetic surgery urged," (BBC News) and "Cosmetic treatment industry faces tough regulation over 'grubby' tactics," (The Guardian).

The news stories report the findings of a two-month public consultation conducted as part of an ongoing Government review into the cosmetic surgery industry.

A majority of respondents are calling for a ban on aggressive sales techniques, such as “two-for-one” offers and surgery offered as competition prizes.

Findings from the consultation will feed into a final report by the NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh due for publication in March 2013.

What is this report?

The report is a summary of responses to a public consultation that forms part of an ongoing review into the regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry. The two-month call for evidence was launched in August and 180 responses were received. These responses will inform Sir Bruce’s review, due in March.

What were the consultation’s findings?

Suggestions that the majority of respondents wanted to see implemented include:

  • Banning free consultations for cosmetic surgery so that people don’t feel obliged to go through with surgical procedures.
  • Ensuring consultations are with a medical professional, not a sales adviser.
  • Imposing tighter restrictions on advertising including banning two-for-one and time-limited deals, and offers of cosmetic surgery as competition prizes.
  • Requiring a two-stage written consent for surgery so people have time to reflect before making a decision.
  • Providing better information for patients including photos of expected bruising and scarring, and more detail on the risks associated with surgery.

What prompted the review?

The cosmetic surgery review was announced in January 2012 following the PIP breast implant scandal. The French-made implants caused global concern in 2011 after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and that they may be more prone to rupture and leakage. In the UK, about 47,000 women are thought to have the implants.

What is the aim of the review?

The review was set up to look at the following issues:

  • The regulation and safety of products used in cosmetic interventions.
  • How best to ensure that the people who carry out procedures have the necessary skills and qualifications.
  • How to ensure that organisations have the systems in place to look after their patients both during their treatment and afterwards.
  • How to ensure that people considering cosmetic surgery and procedures are given the information, advice and time for reflection to make an informed choice.
  • What improvements are needed in dealing with complaints so they are listened to and acted upon.

Written by *NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter*.

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