Ban free consultations and “two for one” deals on cosmetic procedures, say respondents to review

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 31 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8722
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

People who responded to a consultation on the regulation of cosmetic interventions in England have said that they would like to see a raft of changes, including that all consultations should be with a medical professional—preferably the surgeon doing the procedure—and not a sales adviser.

They would also like to see an end to free consultations, tighter controls on advertising, a two stage consent process, and better information on the after-effects of surgery, such as photographs of bruising and scarring.1

The call for evidence into cosmetic interventions was launched by the NHS’s medical director, Bruce Keogh, in August 2012 after the scandal over breast implants that came to light in 2011.2

Around 47 000 women in the United Kingdom are thought to have received the breast implants made by the former French manufacturer Poly Implant Prosthèse, which were found to contain non-medical grade silicone, prompting concerns about their safety.3 4

The consultation on cosmetic interventions, which closed on 15 October 2012, received more than 180 responses, two thirds (63%) from people working in the industry or members of the public.

Most respondents said that there should be a specialist register for cosmetic surgery and accredited training and revalidation to prevent surgeons operating outside their area of expertise. Better records of all devices and implants used were also seen as essential. But respondents were split on whether people who administered non-surgical treatments, such as dermal fillers and chemical peels, needed to be medically qualified or to just have had the right training.

Many respondents believed that the current regulatory framework needed to be updated. They wanted to see tougher restrictions on advertising and bans on financial inducements for cosmetic interventions, such as “two for one” or time limited deals and cosmetic surgery as competition prizes.

Most respondents believed that there should be clearer legal requirements to place a duty on providers to provide aftercare where a patient was harmed.

Vivienne Parry, a member of the review committee and a writer and broadcaster, said, “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.

“Everyone who decides to have cosmetic surgery should have time to think about the risks. Time limited deals and offers on voucher websites pressure people to make snap decisions.”

In a foreword to the report Keogh said, “It’s not always acknowledged that people undergoing cosmetic interventions are not only consumers but also patients. They are taking decisions about medical procedures that can have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing.

“The responses to the call for evidence send a clear message that the current regulatory framework doesn’t do enough to support consumer rights or patient safety. The supply and demand for procedures in this fast growing sector has outgrown the existing legislation around the products used, the people providing treatments, and the information and advice available to the public.”

The committee will consider the responses and produce recommendations in March.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8722