Deregulation of Lasers: An Equipment Suppliers View

Posted on the 04 August 2010 at 14:02

Lynton has been supplying Laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) equipment to the cosmetic (as well as the medical) marketplace for over 16 years now and has always regarded Government-backed regulation of the sector as “a good thing” in principle, but has certainly not agreed with some of the more detailed, and seemingly disproportionate, regulatory requirements that came with it. In common with the majority of our customers, we have also regretted the costs and complexity of a registration scheme which appeared to just heap an additional burden on the conscientious operators, whilst doing virtually nothing to penalise, or even discourage, the more unscrupulous.

It is with mixed feelings, therefore, that I view the imminent deregulation, on 1st October, of the use of Class 3b/4 lasers and IPLs in cosmetic practices. I feel that an opportunity has been lost to modify an existing and necessary, but over-blown, framework into a simpler and more effective one. In particular, and in common with most commentators, I disapprove of the complete removal of any regulatory requirements from those practitioners who are not “Healthcare Professionals”, or who are not treating “Disease, Disorder or Injury” (whatever that eventually turns out to mean).

Just about all our customers can see the sense in ensuring safe operations of lasers and IPLs, appropriate and ongoing training, appropriate treatment protocols, etc., but often need (and they generally recognise this themselves) some external structure in place to make sure that it all actually happens. They also generally agree that compliance with some recognised regulatory scheme is good for their own business, in that they can use it to reassure their own clients that they are providing a good service. No reputable clinic, salon or, indeed, equipment manufacturer wants to put the public at risk. No sensible manufacturer wants a customer's inability to use its products safely and effectively to adversely affect its ongoing business. Lynton's aims coincide with those of most of its customers, and with the aims of the outgoing regulatory scheme.

So replacement regulatory requirements are definitely required. I am aware of a scheme currently being developed by the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS), in collaboration with the Association of Laser Healthcare Advisors (ALPHA) and Local Government Regulation (formerly LACORS), where a revised set of Minimum Standards (mainly based on the P-Standards from the outgoing CQC regulated scheme) would be enforced by the Local Authorities. Such a scheme could be trialed in the London Boroughs (where Acts of Parliament already exist, enabling a scheme to be legally enforced) and then rolled out country-wide. I would be whole-heartedly behind such a scheme, as long as it were proportionate, enforceable, all-inclusive, and not laden down with additional excessive costs that would make it as expensive to an operator as the outgoing CQC-administered scheme. If costs and time spent on paperwork are not kept to a sensible minimum then resentment will grow, take-up will be less that it should be, Local Government’s job will be made harder, the public will be more at risk than they should be, and the good name of the industry as a whole will be more tarnished than it should be.

So whilst, on the one hand, I can partly sympathise with the Government’s apparent wish to prioritise and only regulate essential “Healthcare”, and can even see some sense in the argument that what now become “non-medical” treatments should attract VAT, I also believe, on the other hand, that government in some form or other, most likely at Local Authority level, still needs to be involved in the protection of the public when it comes to the regulation of voluntary services such as the ones our customers (and, indeed, now Lynton itself) provide. A voluntary scheme would just not work.

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