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RCS calls for new powers to protect cosmetic surgery patients

26 May 2015

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has called on the Government to introduce legislation in the Queen’s Speech to protect patients undergoing cosmetic surgery.

The RCS wants the General Medical Council to be given a new power to tell the public and employers which surgeons are qualified to undertake cosmetic surgery.

The vast majority of cosmetic surgery is carried out in the private sector and the law currently allows any qualified doctor – surgeon or otherwise – to perform cosmetic surgery without undertaking additional training or qualifications.

Following the PIP breast implant scandal and Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of cosmetic surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons is drafting new standards of training and practice to correct this.  The College will introduce a new system of certification to identify those surgeons that have the appropriate skills and experience to provide cosmetic surgery.  However, enforcing the requirements will be difficult unless the GMC is given a new power to formally recognise these qualifications on the medical register. Without this change in the law, patients and employers will not always be able to tell a proficient cosmetic surgeon from a professional who has limited recognised experience in the specific procedure.

At the request of the Department of Health, the Law Commissions have already drafted legislation to update professional regulation including for cosmetic surgery. This was widely supported but the coalition Government chose to delay enacting legislation.

Mr David Ward, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“It is very important that the newly elected Government seizes this opportunity to improve patient safety.

“A simple change in the law will allow the General Medical Council to detail whether an individual has the appropriate skills and training to carry out cosmetic surgery.

“It is a booming industry and the public must be able to check whether a surgeon is appropriately trained before consenting and paying for a procedure.  This change in the law forms a vital part of our plans to improve standards in cosmetic surgery.”

While the GMC has struck a number of doctors off its register in the past after performing poor quality cosmetic surgery, it does not have the power to allow employers and the public to check in advance of a cosmetic procedure whether a surgeon is competent to perform the operation.

Notes to editors

Following the PIP breast implant scandal, 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.  The College did this and it the College is now working on producing a new system of certification to be introduced in 2016.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please call: 020 7869 6047/6052; out-of hours: 07966 486 832; or email:

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