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Lawyers comment on new cosmetic surgery guidance

New guidance released for doctors offering cosmetic interventions

12 April 2016

New guidance has been released by the General Medical Council for doctors who offer cosmetic interventions, which will come into effect as of 1 June 2016. The GMC released these guidelines as a response to a review of the cosmetic industry by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh in 2013, which found that there have been few safeguards in place for patients undergoing surgical cosmetic procedures.
 
Cosmetic interventions include “any intervention, procedure or treatment carried out with the primary objective of changing an aspect of a patient’s physical appearance. This includes surgical and non-surgical procedures, both invasive and non-invasive.”* General Medical Council, Guidance for doctors who offer cosmetic interventions, published 12 April 2016.
 
The Guidance aims to make sure doctors are trained and experienced to conduct treatments safely, with many of the key points relating to steps taken before the procedure, such as:
  • seek the patient’s consent to the procedure themselves rather than delegate
  • make sure patients are given enough time and information before they decide whether to have an intervention
  • consider the patients’ psychological needs and whether referral to another experienced professional colleague is appropriate
  • recognise and work within the limits of their competence, seeking advice when necessary
  • make sure patients have the information they want or need, including written information that supports continuity of care and includes relevant information about the medicines or devices used
  • take particular care when considering requests for interventions on children and young people 
  • market their services responsibly, without making unjustifiable claims about interventions, trivialising the risks involved, or using promotional tactics that might encourage people to make ill-considered decisions.
 
Emmalene Bushnell, Partner in the Clinical Negligence Department at Leigh Day said: “It is incredibly important that patients understand fully the risks involved with particular surgeries. This Guidance should help to improve the information provided before a procedure and help patients to feel confident that the doctors carrying out the procedures have the relevant experience.”
 
Jill Paterson, Partner in the Consumer Law and Product Safety team at Leigh Day said: “We welcome these new Guidelines. The PIP scandal highlighted the appalling lack of safeguards for patients undergoing this sort of procedure and any step towards improving the information given to consumers can only be a good thing.”

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