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Curbs urged on cosmetic surgery selling tactics

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
smiling male surgeon

31st December 2012 - People want to see an end to aggressive marketing tactics in the cosmetic surgery industry, says a new report published by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director.

Sir Bruce was asked to lead the Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions in the aftermath of the PIP breast implant scandal in which thousands of women were fitted with devices that were twice as likely to rupture as other implants. The problems exposed concerns about products used in cosmetic procedures, the training of those performing them and the way in which people were treated when things went wrong.

An interim report published today sets out suggestions from the public, those who carry out cosmetic surgery and cosmetic procedures and patient groups.

Two for one offers

Suggestions made by those who responded include:

  • Banning free consultations for cosmetic surgery so that people don’t feel obliged to go through with surgical procedures
  • Ensuring that consultations are with a medical professional, not a sales adviser
  • Imposing tighter restrictions on advertising, including banning two for one, time limited deals and 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

Sir Bruce says the number of responses demonstrate the interest there is in protecting people who undergo cosmetic procedures. "It’s not always acknowledged that people undergoing cosmetic interventions are not only consumers but also patients," he writes in the forward to the report. "They are taking decisions about medical procedures that can have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing."

'Not double glazing'

The writer and broadcaster Vivienne Parry, who is a member of the review committee, says in a statement: "Aggressive marketing techniques are often used to maximise profit. This may be the right approach for selling double glazing but not for people having or considering whether to have surgery."

The recommendations from the Review panel are due to be published at the end of March 2013.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) says it has been campaigning for more stringent rules for years. However, consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS President Rajiv Grover, warned of one loophole in requiring a medical professional rather than a sales person to hold the initial consultation. "Unequivocally, the only person holding a consultation with a patient should be the surgeon who will be performing the procedure," he says in an emailed statement. "Otherwise, the ‘professional’ could still be, for example, a nurse working on commission for practitioners based either here or even abroad.

"Recognised medico-legally, informed consent is essential for patient safety and only the surgeon carrying out the actual operation should be involved in the process. Achieving anything less at the end of this exercise would make a mockery of the review - if not an outright sham."

Reviewed on December 31, 2012

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