It may have taken a scandal, but the government has finally decided to take a look at the murky business of cosmetic surgery. That’s good news for all of us, from people contemplating cosmetic repair after cancer surgery, to women who decide to spend their hard-earned cash on holding back the years, to those of us who would never contemplate going under the knife, but as tax-payers have been picking up the tab when other people’s private cosmetic surgery goes wrong.
Everyone has the right to assume that, if they buy a cosmetic procedure, it will (a) use safe, approved products (b) reach statutory minimum standards and (c) be carried out by someone qualified to do the work. And that if something goes wrong, the company that carried out the work will correct it at no extra cost. It’s an indictment of the industry that this has not been the case.
The review, headed by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, will look into what he describes as the ‘pretty grubby’ practices of some parts of the industry. These include marketing practices more suited to the supermarket than the clinic, such as two procedures for the price of one, or time-limited discounts that put pressure on people to make decisions about major surgery without due consideration.
The review also asks whether cosmetic surgery advertising should be more tightly regulated. I’d love to see the back of the manipulative advertising that bombards women in particular, fostering feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. It seems odd that pharmaceutical companies are banned from advertising prescription-only medicines directly to consumers, but surgeons are free to fill the pages of glossy magazines with adverts pushing invasive and major surgery.
And it’s not just surgery being reviewed. Dermal fillers and botox injections are being widely promoted and used as beauty products, despite a lack of evidence about their safety and potential long-term side effects. Dermal peels can have drastic effects, and laser hair removal is a costly and time-consuming process. There is little effective regulation around any of these procedures.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the review can read the call for evidence and contribute their views via the Department of Health website: http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/cosmetic-form/.