The Royal College of Surgeons has urged patients to ‘think carefully before cosmetic surgery’ as it launches new, independent information online to counter the ‘aggressive marketing’ campaigns and ‘ruthless’ sales techniques that some unscrupulous private companies employ.
The cosmetic surgery industry is burgeoning – last year, over 51,000 cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in the private sector in England, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons’ audit of its members. Yet patients often find it difficult to choose a suitable surgeon and to obtain trustworthy information about the risks involved.
The patient resources on the RCS website offer advice on how to choose the right surgeon and hospital, explain the risks of undergoing surgery, and possible complications to consider. The web pages also include a section on questions to ask a surgeon before you consent to an operation, a downloadable checklist, and three short animation films.
The RCS’s advice also says patients should give themselves time to reflect on their decision – it strongly recommends taking at least two weeks between your initial consultation with the operating surgeon and consenting to surgery. It advises patients not to be afraid to ask questions, or feel pressured into consenting to surgery.
Vice President of the RCS, Mr Stephen Cannon MBE, chaired the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee, which was set up to improve standards in cosmetic surgery.
He said: “The cosmetic surgery industry is booming, but due to the aggressive marketing and ruthless sales tactics of some unscrupulous companies, it can be very difficult for patients to find independent, trustworthy information which gives them a clear idea of what an operation would entail.
“Undergoing cosmetic surgery is a big decision which should never be taken lightly and we would urge anyone to think carefully about it. The vast majority of cosmetic surgery is carried out in the private sector and many people do not realise that the law currently allows any qualified doctor – surgeon or otherwise – to perform cosmetic surgery, without undertaking additional training or qualifications.
“Our advice is that if you are thinking of having some kind of work done, make sure you consult a surgeon who is trained and experienced in the procedure you are considering. Look them up on the General Medical Council’s Register; the RCS website tells you everything you need to know about cosmetic surgery.”
In the coming months, the RCS will also publish a register of ‘certified surgeons’ in different cosmetic surgical procedures. This will allow patients to look for a surgeon by procedure, who has provided evidence to the RCS that they have the appropriate training, experience and insurance to practise in the UK.
The Department of Health asked the RCS to produce the patient resources and set up the certification system, following the Keogh Review in 2013, in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal. This found that there was an urgent need to improve regulation of cosmetic surgical and non-surgical practices in the UK; and that some doctors are performing cosmetic surgery even though they have no surgical training.