Making cosmetic surgery safe – it could happen…

Yesterday was eye-opening, shocking (again) but ultimately – possibly – reassuring.

Whatever we think about the messages and pressures that bombard us about the value of ‘looking good’, we have to respect the many people who seek cosmetic surgery believing that it will be a tonic and give them a boost to their self-esteem and confidence. What is essential is that their search does not lead them into making choices that put their health at risk.

The Department of Health published Professor Keogh’s review of the safety of the cosmetic surgery industry found many practices that did not meet up to acceptable standards – and that means those (possibly vulnerable) people were at risk. Some of them spoke up – again. Yes, we have known this for years. But at long last, yesterday might be a tipping point.

You might not have time to read the whole Review or its fascinating research papers but please read this Foreword from the Review Group chaired by Prof Keogh:

“This group was asked to review regulation in the cosmetic interventions sector following the PIP implant scandal which exposed woeful lapses in product quality, after care and record keeping. It also drew attention to widespread use of misleading advertising, inappropriate marketing and unsafe practices right across the sector. Cosmetic interventions are a booming business in the UK, worth £2.3 billion in 2010, and estimated to rise to £3.6 billion by 2015. They can either be surgical – such as face-lifts, tummy tucks and breast implants – or non-surgical – typically dermal fillers, Botox® or the use of laser or intense pulsed light (IPL). These latter account for nine out of ten procedures and 75% of the market value. We were surprised to discover that non-surgical interventions, which can have major and irreversible adverse impacts on health and wellbeing, are almost entirely unregulated.

In fact, a person having a non-surgical cosmetic intervention has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush.

Dermal fillers are a particular cause for concern as anyone can set themselves up as a practitioner, with no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience. Nor are there sufficient checks in place with regard to product quality – most dermal fillers have no more controls than a bottle of floor cleaner. There has been explosive growth in this market, driven by a combination of high demand and high profits in an era when all other commercial income is stalling.

It is our view that dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen.

Previous attempts at self-regulation in the industry have failed, largely because voluntary codes have meant that only the best in this disparate sector commit themselves to better practice, whilst the unscrupulous and unsafe carry on as before. Throughout our meetings, discussions and correspondence with stakeholders from all groups, professions and experts, the call has been for a new legislative framework. Taken together, our recommendations provide that framework for both surgical and non-surgical interventions. They set out a range of actions to ensure practitioners have the right skills, the products used are safe, providers are responsible, people get accurate information and support is available if things go wrong.

These recommendations are not about increasing bureaucracy but about putting the everyone’s safety and wellbeing first.

Those having cosmetic interventions are often vulnerable. They take their safety as a given and assume regulation is already in place to protect them. We urge the government, regulators, provider organisations and professionals to help implement these recommendations and to make sure that individuals’ health and safety is prioritised ahead of commercial interest, so maintaining the trust and safety of the public and the future viability of this industry.”

We do not believe that the Review’s recommendations are 100% spot-on but they are more than 80% there – and the important thing is that almost 100% of the comments yesterday from across the cosmetic industry were supportive.

So there is real hope.

It is now up to all of us to keep the pressure on and make sure the Government does not baulk from taking the actions required.


Roger Ebert: a man with a powerful thumb and an outstanding face

ImageA film critic extraordinaire who left his thumb, up or down, on the minds of millions of Americans about films of all kinds, he will also have done much to familiarise them with what a face transformed by surgery after cancer looks like. Just as important, perhaps more so, he demonstrated in his own unique way that his powers of critical analysis and thumb movement skills were untouched and even enhanced.

I love this wonderful response to a question from a Guardian journalist:

Question: Has your new face made you wonder afresh about America’s obsession with cosmetic surgery, Botox and the rest?

Ebert: After surgery, I was advised to not attend my own festival because paparazzi might peddle pictures of my new appearance. I said the hell with it. This is how I look. We have to grow comfortable with reality. I quoted a line from Raging Bull: “He ain’t a pretty boy no more.”

RIP Roger Ebert