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Based on an in-depth analysis of the UK's cosmetic injectables industry by University College London (UCL) researchers, 68% of cosmetic practitioners who are administering medical injectables are not qualified medical doctors.
The study is the first survey of who is providing cosmetic injectables in the UK. At present, there is limited knowledge regarding the background qualifications, training, and experience levels of individuals who are conducting these treatments.
Researchers assessed 3,000 aesthetic websites to identify 1,224 independent clinics and 3,667 practitioners who were delivering cosmetic injections.
Among the represented professions, doctors accounted for 32%, nurses 13%, dentists 24%, and dental nurses 8%. Out of the 1,163 doctors identified, 41% were listed on the specialist register, and 19% were on the GP register. Among the 27 specialities represented in the specialist register, Plastic Surgery constituted the largest group (37%), followed by Dermatology (18%).
The UK injectables market is forecasted to achieve a value of £11.7 billion by 2026; however, as of now, it remains largely unregulated. The UK government is getting ready to revise its policy concerning injectables, and a public consultation on the industry is scheduled to commence in August 2023. Recommendations are expected to inform amendments to the Medical Act in 2024.
Dr David Zargaran (UCL Plastic Surgery), an author of the study, said:
“There are well-documented, yet to date unaddressed challenges in the UK cosmetic injectables market. Without knowledge of the professional backgrounds of practitioners, we cannot adequately regulate the industry. Our research highlights that the majority of practitioners are not doctors and include other healthcare professionals, as well as non-healthcare professionals such as beauticians.
“The range of backgrounds opens a broader question relating to competence and consent. One of the key challenges facing the government’s licensing scheme is to ensure that practitioners granted a licence possess the skills and experience required to safely administer their treatment to minimise risks to patients.
“It is important for patients to be able to feel comfortable and confident that the person administering their treatment is competent in the procedure as a fundamental foundation of informed consent. This research provides a unique insight into the sector to help inform regulators and patients, and work towards a safer and more transparent cosmetic injectables industry in the UK.”
In addition to examining the professional background of individuals administering cosmetic injections, there has been a lack of research on the frequency of complications and their effects on patients until recently. A second study from the same authors, published on 3 July 2023, found that 69% of respondents to the study had experienced long-lasting adverse effects, such as pain, anxiety and headaches.
Professor Julie Davies (UCL School Global Business School for Health), a co-author of the study, commented:
“The UK cosmetic injectables industry has expanded rapidly in recent years. This has happened largely without scrutiny or oversight. Our findings should be a wake-up call for legislators to implement effective regulation and professional standards to safeguard patients from complications. Although the risks associated with injections are often mild and temporary, the physical complications can be permanent and debilitating. There are also serious psychological, emotional, and financial consequences for patients when procedures go wrong.”