Legal protection for cosmetic surgery patients

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The General Medical Council is introducing new rules designed to offer greater protection to patients undergoing cosmetic procedures in this country.

The rules, which come into force in June and apply to both private clinics and the NHS, are aimed at ensuring patients are not rushed or pressured into having cosmetic surgery.

Marketing promotions such as two-for-one offers are to be banned and any doctors found to be in breach of the rules will face being struck off the medical register.

Surgeon and practitioners carrying out cosmetic procedures such as breast implants, face lifts and botox injections shall be required to fully explain the risks to the patient. Patients must also be told who to contact if they experience any complications following surgery.

This initiative has been implemented in response to a review of the cosmetic surgery industry some years ago which concluded that there were inadequate safeguards for patients receiving cosmetic treatment.

Particular concern was expressed about patients undergoing non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as dermal fillers, who have the benefit of only very basic consumer protection.

The General Medical Counsel acknowledged there was ‘poor practice’ in the cosmetic surgery industry, agreeing it was important that patients are properly protected and that doctors understand what is expected from them.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is launching its own set of professional standards for cosmetic surgeons and is also calling for the law to be changed so that surgeons are certified to carry out cosmetic operations.

Whether these measures will be sufficient to stem the tide of negligence claims arising from botched cosmetic procedures remains to be seen.