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Proposals for stronger protections for cosmetic surgery patients unveiled

23 Jan 2015

Patients having cosmetic surgery should be able to make informed decisions about their treatment, including being able to check if their surgeon is listed on an approved register, according to new proposals made today by the Royal College of Surgeons to improve standards of care.

The Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC), which was set up by the Royal College of Surgeons in 2013, proposes that patients considering paying for cosmetic surgery privately – where they choose to have an operation for aesthetic, rather than medical reasons – should have access to clear, unbiased and credible information about their surgeon, care provider, procedure and likely outcomes. 

The vast majority of cosmetic surgery takes place in the private sector.  Currently, a surgeon must be registered and licensed by the GMC to undertake such procedures. However, there is no common qualification available for those performing cosmetic surgery because it covers a number of surgical areas.

Under the plans, surgeons working in the private sector will have to prove they meet new standards of training to be certified and included on a register. This will be publicly available to employers and patients so they can make informed decisions.  To obtain certification, surgeons will have to be on the GMC’s specialist register in the area of training that covers the operations they wish to perform.  They will also need to demonstrate they have:

  • undertaken a minimum number of procedures within the relevant region of the body in a facility recognised by the health regulator;
  • the appropriate professional skills to undertake cosmetic surgery; and
  • provide evidence of the quality of their surgical outcomes.

Certification will only permit surgeons working in the private sector to undertake cosmetic surgery on the areas of the body that relates to the speciality they trained in. 

Mr Stephen Cannon, Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC) and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“We are determined to ensure there are the same rigorous standards for patients undergoing cosmetic surgery in the UK as other types of surgery.

“This consultation provides the next step in establishing clear and high standards for training and practice so that all surgeons in the UK are certified to the same level, irrespective of where they trained.

“We want patients, surgeons and providers of cosmetic surgery to respond to this consultation and give us their views so we can develop these new standards.”

The CSIC was set up by the Royal College of Surgeons following Sir Bruce Keogh’s Review of the Regulations of Cosmetic Interventions. This looked at surgical and non-surgical cosmetic interventions and found that “the existing regulatory framework has not kept pace with changes and it does not provide enough protection against many of the potential risks from cosmetic procedures.”

Although nine out of 10 cosmetic interventions are non-surgical, the Keogh Review recommended that the Royal College of Surgeons should establish a Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC) to take forward its recommendations relating to the regulation of cosmetic surgery.

 Notes to editors 

1. The Keogh Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions can be read here
2. The consultation will be open until Friday 6 March 2015

Consultation Documents

  •  Consultation paper
  •  Response form
  • Proposed areas of the body for certification

3. Cosmetic surgery is where a person chooses to undergo an operation, or invasive medical procedure, to alter their physical appearance for aesthetic rather than medical reasons.  It is rarely available through the NHS, primarily taking place in the private sector.  There must be overriding physical or psychological reasons for considering it as a treatment option on the NHS[1].


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