GMC urges patients to question their doctors closely before a cosmetic treatment

Following on from guidance issued in April for any doctor carrying out a cosmetic treatment, whether surgical or non-surgical, the General Medical Council (GMC) has now published advice to patients on how they can research their cosmetic provider carefully to ensure a high quality of care.

Buyer bewareGMC Cosmetic Procedures Poster

The various organisations that cover medical practitioners are working towards improving standards in the cosmetic industry, but these are elective procedures so a certain amount of responsibility falls on the patients as the choice is theirs to make. This has prompted the GMC to produce an easy-to-follow guide for patients.

Consent – the doctor who will be carrying out the procedure must be the one you see for your consultation and who gains your consent

Openness – when questioned, your doctor should be ‘open and honest’ about their skills and experience. They should also be clear if they have any conflict of interest.

Safety – your procedure must take place in a ‘safe and suitable environment’ – this includes their ability to deal with any complications that arise so ask them how these will be handled.

Marketing – the new guidance to doctors covers how they advertise themselves, specifically inducements to the patient to go ahead with a procedure. If you’re being offered a deal, then your doctor is failing to follow the standards set by the GMC so they should not be trusted to comply with other guidelines that cover your safety. Also, your doctor should be clear about the risks involved and not just sell the benefits.

Experience – ask your doctor how long they’ve been carrying out the procedure you’re interested in and what training they have undergone.

Time – every patient should be offered a ‘cool down’ period once they’ve been given all the information they need to make their decision. If your doctor pressures you into making a decision or offers you a time-sensitive deal, then walk away.

Information – clear information must be given on all aspects of your care, including aftercare and what to do if there is a complication.

Costs – before you make the decision to go ahead with a procedure, all costs should be covered clearly. Many non-surgical procedures require a number of sessions to achieve the expected results and that should be made clear to you by your practitioner.

New standards

The guidance for patients goes hand-in-hand with the guidance they issued in April to doctors. Formulated in response to the review of the cosmetic industry that was carried out by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh after the PIP implant scandal, their aim is to improve standards of safety and patient care.

The guidance covered both surgical procedures, such as breast augmentations and tummy tucks, and non-surgical treatments, including Botox which is thought to account for 39% of all aesthetic procedures performed in the UK.

The new rules for doctors came into force last month and included the following:

  • Advertising and the marketing of your services most be done responsibly, offering clear and factual information and not using any offers that could unduly influence patients in their decision-making process.
  • Patients should be allowed time to reflect on their procedure before going ahead. They should also be given all the necessary information on the possible complications as well as the benefits of going ahead with treatment.
  • Patient safety should be supported through the taking of accurate records and acting on any patient safety concerns. Involvement in programmes that monitor quality and outcome is important.

One aspect of the GMC’s guidance which I think cannot be stressed enough is that the medical practitioner ‘must recognise and work within the limits of [their] competence and refer a patient to another practitioner where [they] cannot safely meet [the patient’s] needs’.

Over the years, lack of regulation has allowed medical practitioners from all specialties to offer cosmetic procedures, regardless of their training and experience. The GMC joins with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) who have recently released their ‘Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery’.

Underlining the GMC’s call for competence, the RCS have stated that all surgeons that perform cosmetic surgery should be certified in the area of cosmetic surgery that they practice and certification requires them to be in a relevant surgical specialty and to be able to demonstrate their competence and that they are keeping their skills up to date.

To arrange a cosmetic surgery consultation that upholds the guidance of both the GMC and RCS, please call 01926 436341 and speak to my secretary.