Cosmetic Surgery needs more than another review

It is entirely right that the Health Secretary should set up a review on the faulty breast implants that 50,000 women have received in recent years, many after serious breast disease – and women are rightly worried that the NHS will not pick up the costs http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/05/breast-implants-scandal-cancer?INTCMP=SRCH

But I have been concerned that the main reaction from the medical profession has been to focus on the need to a registry of implants – that is apart from the plastic surgeons’ association which has taken a very sensible line: http://www.bapras.org.uk/news.asp?id=947.

I think the Health Secretary needs to broaden his perspective: the entire cosmetic surgery and beauty therapy industry carries serious risks for millions of women and many men.

There have been enough warnings of an impending crisis – the latest angst about the implants and anti-ageing fillers adds to that raised by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcomes and Death (NCEPOD)’s Report in autumn 2010: http://www.ncepod.org.uk/2010cs.htm. This showed alarming variations in the practice of cosmetic surgery and a pervasive lack of adequate regulation of facilities, training and delivery of treatments.

Of particular concern to Changing Faces are:

  • the lack of expert assessment of client’s motivation and psychological wellbeing prior to any treatment
  • the big gaps in the provision of realistic advice and information about its possible risks and outcomes.

It is abundantly clear that currently, many patients cannot be assured that they are receiving an appropriate level of care. Psychologically vulnerable patients are at risk of not receiving the level of specialist care they need – as Changing Faces (and other agencies) know only too well from our clients.

The last Government called for a Chief Medical Officer’s review and got it: see the Report on the Regulation of Cosmetic Surgery, 2005: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4102046?ssSourceSiteId=ab

But that Government then baulked on the strong actions needed to tackle the risks to public health and prevent the private grief and the economic toll. These included action to regulate who can practice ‘cosmetic surgery’ and how to ensure their skills are suitable; how to protect patients – or are they customers? – from making uninformed decisions about risky operations, implants and fillers; how to outlaw hyperbolic advertising; and how to properly regulate the many laser, botox and other treatments that are outside the scope of the Care Quality Commission.

I challenge this Health Secretary to see the big picture in the interests of us all.