With new draft guidance hot off the press from the General Medical Council (GMC) the safety of cosmetic surgery procedures is once again the subject of much public debate. Recommending more openness and pre-treatment consideration time, this latest set of proposals looks set to further transform the cosmetic surgery industry across the UK. Safety is of course the paramount concern for all reputable cosmetic surgeons and clinics, so any improvements in this area should be welcome news for patients and practitioners alike. Here we take a closer look at what these new proposals could mean in practice, the safety of cosmetic surgery in general and how to ensure you get the treatment you require while protecting your health.
GMC proposals in brief
The main change proposed by the GMC is that all patients considering having cosmetic surgery must be given time to think about what they are doing before giving consent to the treatment. This would apply to all types of cosmetic treatment, whether surgical or non-surgical. This new requirement is part of a package of measures designed to help patients understand what they should expect in terms of information from their doctor and also highlights to doctors how important this flow of information is to prospective clients. There is a keen focus on openness and honesty – two crucial elements of any exchange between doctor and patient. The draft guidance also places a spotlight on the specific issues of dealing with children and young people. Clinics will be expected to pay particular attention to how they market their services, avoiding unjustifiable claims about treatments or promotional tactics such as offering free treatments as prizes. The GMC proposals come hot on the heels of calls from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) for Government to legislate in this area. They believe that increased regulation of the sector is required and that as a minimum the GMC should be have the power to tell the public and employers which surgeons are adequately qualified to perform cosmetic surgery.
Safety issues overseas
The cosmetic surgery industry is a fast moving and growing business across the world. According to the International Society of Plastic and Aesthetic Surgeons (ISAPS) more than 23 million surgical and non-surgical procedures were performed worldwide during 2013. In Britain alone, over 50,000 operations were carried out in the same year, with liposuction topping the list of fasting growing treatment. Unfortunately, while many British clinics already offer safe and effective treatments at competitive prices, many patients still feel prices are beyond their reach. As most procedures are unfortunately not covered by health insurance (though there are a small number of exceptions), a sizeable number of patients make the difficult decision to go overseas for their treatment. Lured by cheaper prices and travel/treatment packages they risk their future health by opting to go abroad. The reality is that cosmetic surgery is already extremely safe in the UK, and the GMC proposals will enhance this further. The same cannot be said for clinics operating beyond these shores. Media websites are full of harrowing stories from patients scarred for life to deaths as a result of botched operations.
Securing safe treatment at home
The most sensible advice for any patient is to work with a reputable UK clinic. As well as avoiding the risks associated with overseas treatment and the inconvenience of travelling abroad, staying local means you can fully research the company, the procedure and the person performing it well in advance. Using an independent provider of clinic information provides an honest insight into who can help you achieve your cosmetic goals and the skill, expertise and reputation they can offer. It can also help filter out unqualified and/or disreputable providers. High quality clinics will be only too happy to openly discuss the treatments available and will make you aware of both the benefits and the risks associated with the particular procedure. All staff from administrators to surgeons should offer a professional service with no pressure applied to the patient at any point in the process. This is the hallmark of an exemplary provider who is one step ahead of the GMC proposals. Choose carefully, take independent advice and act at your own pace – following these simple steps should put you on the right path to safe cosmetic surgery success.