Better protection for cosmetic surgery patients

The cosmetic surgery industry is growing year on year, yet the lack of protection for patients is of increasing concern for those plastic surgeons that do abide by the highest of standards.

This is why I welcome the recent proposals made by the Royal College of Surgeons. In 2013, after the cosmetic surgery industry had been rocked by the PIP implant scandal, the College established the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC), which last year published their in-depth report, Standards in Cosmetic Surgery.

Last week the College issued a statement calling for further action to implement the findings of the report, all of which I wholeheartedly approve of.

The first step of the Committee was to agree on the definition of cosmetic or aesthetic surgery and thereby the procedures it covers:

Operations and all other invasive medical procedures where the primary aim is the change, the restoration, normalisation or improvement of the appearance, the function and well-being at the request of the individual.

Cosmetic surgery proposals in-depth

The first proposal by the CSIC was that any patient undergoing cosmetic surgery should be able to check whether their surgeon is listed on an approved register.

Currently, patients can check if a surgeon is on the General Medical Council’s list of registered medical practitioners. This will also indicate if a surgeon is on the plastic surgery register; this guarantees that the surgeon will have undergone six years of plastic and reconstructive training and be qualified to hold a consultant-level position on the NHS.

However, there is no law to stop those who aren’t qualified plastic surgeons from offering cosmetic surgery as defined above.

Furthermore, matters have changed since I underwent my training on the NHS in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery. Then, many cosmetic surgery procedures fell within the remit of the Health Service, but the economic strictures it now faces has resulted in fewer ‘aesthetic’ procedures being offered, meaning future plastic surgeons will not be gaining that invaluable experience during their training.

I firmly believe the onus is on the surgeon to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field, but the proposal of the CSIC is to establish a certification system that demands surgeons meets a set of standards. These include:

  • a surgeon must undertake a minimum number of procedures
  • they have the appropriate professional skills to offer a specific procedure
  • they submit to an audit of their surgical outcomes

As a member of BAAPS, one of the UK’s leading independent plastic surgery groups, I already undergo an annual safety audit, so I welcome this procedure being insisted on across the industry as a whole.

During consultations at my Leamington cosmetic surgery practice, I ensure patients have all the information they need regarding the procedure in question, but I also make sure they know everything they need about me. Embarking on cosmetic surgery is one of the most important decisions you can make and it’s crucial you can trust your surgeon implicitly.

Cosmetic surgery figures falling?

Last month, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), of which I am a member, released their 2014 cosmetic surgery figures. Despite a general mood of cautious economic buoyancy nationwide, there was a drop in last year’s numbers compared to the previous year.

These figures are only based on the number of procedures performed by BAAPS members, all of whom have to be NHS-trained, consultant-level surgeons on the GMC’s plastic surgery register. This doesn’t, therefore, take into account the procedures performed by the big cosmetic surgery chains, but the conclusion drawn was that there had been a drop in ‘glamour model-inspired boob jobs and summer body-influenced transformations’, meaning the big chains are likely to have been similarly affected.

The phrase ‘tweaked not tucked’ was coined to describe the move towards more understated aesthetic procedures. Although I have seen no drop in my own private practice, I do think there is a move towards anti-ageing procedures, such as the eyelid lift, that produce subtle, naturally-beautiful results, rather than a transformation that shouts to all and sundry that you’ve been ‘done’. Certainly this conservative approach has always been the basis of my own plastic surgery philosophy.

Another trend I have witnessed that chimes with BAAPS findings is that patients are doing more research. The majority of patients attending my Leamington cosmetic surgery clinic have done thorough research before they arrive for a consultation; a change that can only be encouraged and embraced by any reputable and ethical plastic surgeon.

Other conclusions that can be drawn from these figures include:

The impact of changes to the National Health Service

BAAPS figures showed that while breast augmentations still came out on top, demand had dropped by a massive 23%, but breast reduction procedures saw a rise. Previously, breast reductions were commonly performed in my NHS practice, but more and more patients are finding themselves ineligible for this procedure on the Health Service so are forced to look privately.

Cosmetic surgery versus non-surgical procedures

In previous years, there has been much media coverage of non-surgical, minimally-invasive body reshaping or fat reduction procedures. The appeal is understandable; fantastic results without the associated downtime or possible complications. However, as in life, there is no such thing as a quick fix and if something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

The internet is awash with stories of disappointing results from these non-surgical procedures, so it is perhaps unsurprising that surgical liposuction has increased in popularity last year, with a rise of 10% for women.

If you’ve done your research and are interested in exploring a particular procedure further, book a consultation at my Warwickshire private cosmetic surgery practice. All patients are given in-depth coverage of both the benefits and drawbacks and an honest opinion as to whether cosmetic surgery is right for them.