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Lack of regulation is allowing untrained people to perform dangerous procedures
BAAPS, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, warned this month that some beauty establishments may be offering unsafe treatments medical treatments, such as Botox injections.
The BAAPS president, Douglas McGeorge, himself a consultant plastic surgeon, was speaking of so-called ‘medi-spas’, establishments that previously offered only traditional beauty treatments such as facials, hair removal and massage, but are increasingly moving into areas that require more medical knowledge and are more invasive, such as lasers, skin peels and injections.
McGeorge stressed: “The public should seek environments under the care of a properly qualified physician rather than at a shop or a hair salon: non-surgical does not mean non-medical.”
The background is a government decision not to impose tighter regulation on the beauty industry. As far back as 2005 the Expert Group on the Regulation of Cosmetic Surgery recommended stricter control on medical aesthetic procedures like Botox and Cosmetic Fillers, saying such treatments should be monitored by the Healthcare Commission.
But in April this year the UK government rejected that recommendation, deciding instead that self-regulation was sufficient. Health Minister Lord Hunt said “Cosmetic surgery providers have shown real commitment to improving levels of quality and safety in this area and so I have decided to ask the industry to take the lead in further improving standards”.
However this decision has drawn strong criticism. Jenny Driscoll, health campaigner at Which?, said “Government regulation for the cosmetic treatments industry is essential, so how disappointing that it has decided to bottle out and simply leave it up to the cosmetic treatments industry to make itself safe.
“There’s an increasingly casual approach to non-surgical treatments – just look at Botox parties, where people are encouraged to drink champagne before going under the needle.”
Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, chairman of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services’ Working Group on Cosmetic Surgery, which represents more than 90% of private cosmetic surgery firms, and a BUPA medical director, warned that almost anyone could “set up shop” on the high street to offer botox.
“There is no question that better control of these facilities is needed. We are talking about invasive procedures. Botox is a prescription-only medicine and patient safety should be paramount. If things go wrong, some patients could be left scarred physically or psychologically for life.”
And BAAPS President McGeorge offered this checklist for anyone seeking such treatments:
- Location – treatments should not take place in someone’s home, a hotel room or at a party. Medical staff should always be on hand for the rare occasions that something goes wrong
- Qualifications – should the team be carrying out this procedure?
- Research – how effective is the treatment, is it right for you, and what are the potential benefits and side effects?
- Safeguards – what can you do if you are unhappy with the result?
He said: “We just want people to stop and think and check that the people carrying out these procedures are properly trained. “