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RCS supports Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ call for better regulation of the cosmetic industry

22 Jun 2017

A new report has called cosmetic procedure practices and promotion in the UK a ‘cause for serious concern’.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ report on cosmetic procedures - both surgical and non-surgical - calls for a ban on offering ‘walk in’ cosmetic procedures to young people; a complete overhaul of the regulation of products, such as Botox and dermal fillers, used in cosmetic procedures; and proper regulation of the industry.

Mr Stephen Cannon, Vice President at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), responding to the report said:

“We completely agree with the Nuffield Council that there needs to be far better regulation of the cosmetic industry. This was promised in the Conservative Party’s manifesto, although there was nothing explicit in today’s Queen’s Speech. 

"Most cosmetic surgeons perform their surgery with diligence and care but the RCS has still been long concerned by some practice in the UK. We have taken action to improve patient safety by publishing standards for surgeons performing cosmetic surgery and independent patient information to help patients decide what is right for them. We have also launched a certification scheme that will help patients identify surgeons with the right training and experience to carry out their procedure.

“We’ve been particularly concerned by the fact that there is little to stop any doctor – surgeon or otherwise – from carrying out cosmetic surgical procedures.  We have consistently called for new legislation that would allow the General Medical Council (GMC) to note on its medical register which surgeons have been awarded the RCS’ cosmetic surgery certification. This would allow cosmetic surgery providers and patients to check which surgeons they should use. There are still too many tragic stories of patients receiving botched cosmetic surgery at a cost to the patient, if not the NHS.

“This report highlights that the cosmetic industry is often at its worst when dealing with younger patients – particularly for non-surgical procedures. GMC guidance makes clear that under-18s must only undergo a cosmetic surgery intervention if it is in their best interests. For example, a young person may want to undergo an operation to pin their ears back, or correct a cleft lip, if they were being bullied at school. In addition, the environment for practice should be appropriate to paediatric care, and doctors should work with multidisciplinary teams that provide expertise in treating children and young people. The RCS’s own guidance on cosmetic surgery also makes clear that patients of all ages should wait at least two weeks between an initial consultation and consenting to cosmetic surgery.

“Progress has been made in protecting patients but there must be further reform of both surgical, and in particular non-surgical cosmetic interventions, if the industry is to meet the high standards of care patients deserve.”


Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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