Plastic Surgery has become less a medical procedure and more a consumer purchase with the availability of non-surgical procedures such as dermal fillers and Botox becoming routine. However, this has led to concern that unregulated practitioners may leave consumers with little or no redress if something goes wrong.
The Plastic Surgery Industry came under the spotlight in 2013 with a review by the medical director of the NHS in England, Sir Bruce Keogh. One of the problems with some non-surgical procedures is that they have not been classified as prescription only which has led to a lack a control of the marketing and sale of the fillers. Classification as prescription only would also have enabled regulation over who could perform the procedures and provided an automatic ban on advertising.
In recent years, the PIP breast implant scandal also highlighted safety concerns in the industry. The implants used had a much higher risk of rupture and were manufactured using unauthorised silicone filler. The lack of safeguards that this demonstrated resulted in the introduction of measures to improve the consent process, clamp down on irresponsible advertising and the setting up of a more rigorous system of redress.
It has now been announced by the GMC that doctors who carry out cosmetic procedures should give patients cooling off time. While Plastic Surgeons have for some time been using a two week cooling off period these new measures are targeting the unregulated sector in particular. The final guidance is due for publication in early 2016 and in the meantime, the Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps) is keen to develop a screening tool to assist in identifying patients who should not have surgery.
Current difficulties include the difficulty in managing the expectations of patients, who often come to a consultation in a vulnerable state. Increasingly, some candidates for surgery are very young and particular care is needed with this group. A cooling off period should enable those patients who need to step back from the decision to do so and reduce the risks of this being an impulse purchase which might be regretted.