Self Regulation...Is It The Answer?

Lorna Jackson
By Lorna Jackson

Lorna was Editor of Consulting Room (www.consultingroom.com), the UK's largest aesthetic information website, from 2003 to 2021.


In April 2013, a Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions in England led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director, reported that “previous attempts at self-regulation in the industry have failed, largely because voluntary codes have meant that only the best in this disparate sector commit themselves to better practice, whilst the unscrupulous and unsafe carry on as before”.

It cited the creation of the Treatments You Can Trust (TYCT) voluntary register of cosmetic injectable providers in 2010, which was backed by the Department of Health. This was run by the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service (IHAS), a trade association for private healthcare and cosmetic surgery providers, but which Keogh claimed had “attained limited support from the sector”, had raised concerns about whether it was an “appropriate organisation to run an independent register” and which from a consumer perspective “awareness of the register was low”.

The committee behind the Keogh review stated that; “people undergoing non surgical treatments should be able to be confident that their practitioner has the required skill and expertise to undertake the procedure successfully and safely”.

They went on to say; “anyone prescribing fillers, or performing other potentially harmful non surgical cosmetic procedures, should be accountable to a professional regulator”, they believed this recommendation to be “reasonable and proportionate, given the failure of self regulation and the potential for harm”.

Thus Recommendation 7 of the Keogh Report published as:

All practitioners must be registered centrally. The register should be independent of particular professional groups or commercial bodies, and should be funded through registration fees.

A response from the Government to Keogh’s 40 recommendations for the cosmetic interventions sector was published almost a full year later in February 2014.

It gave a significant hint within the introductory pages that statutory regulation was simply not on the cards and that the industry would have to revert to keeping its own ship in order again, by stating; “the Department of Health will look to strengthen standards through training and qualifications and how far supervision from regulated professionals can support self-regulation of the sector”.

When addressing Recommendation 7 directly, the Government responded by saying; “we do not believe that a new regulated profession is the only way of improving patient safety by practitioners of non-surgical cosmetic interventions. Many practitioners of non-surgical cosmetic interventions – nurses, dentists and doctors – are already on professional registers”.

The industry therefore had no choice but to conclude that the Government had neither the appetite for, nor a plan to create its own mandatory, central register for non-surgical cosmetic providers, much like it had abolished the statutory requirement for a register of laser and IPL treatment providers in October 2010. With one ‘failed’ self-regulatory register under its belt, and nothing mandatory from government, what was to happen to the non-surgical medical aesthetic marketplace now?

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