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Cosmetic Surgery To Come Under Government Scrutiny

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BREAST IMPLANTS
The PIP implants scandal highlighted the risks of cosmetic surgery | PA

A major review into cosmetic surgery is being launched in light of the PIP scandal.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, who will lead the inquiry, said he fears many people do not realise such procedures can have lifelong implications.

The review was requested by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley after concerns about cosmetic surgery were raised following the public outcry over faulty PIP breast implants and could lead to tighter regulation of the industry.

Sir Bruce said: "The recent problems with PIP breast implants have shone a light on the cosmetic surgery industry.

"Many questions have been raised, particularly around the regulation of clinics, whether all practitioners are adequately qualified, how well people are advised when money is changing hands, aggressive marketing techniques, and what protection is available when things go wrong.

"I am concerned that too many people do not realise how serious cosmetic surgery is and do not consider the life-long implications - and potential complications - it can have.

"That's why I have put together this review committee to advise me in making recommendations to government on how we can better protect people who choose to have surgery or cosmetic interventions.

"We want to hear views from everyone, particularly people who have experience of the cosmetic surgery industry or of other cosmetic interventions - good and bad - so we can learn what works best."

An expert panel, including PIP campaigner Catherine Kydd, former medical director of Bupa Andrew Vallance-Owen and editor of Marie Claire magazine Trish Halpin, will gather evidence before making recommendations to the Government next March.

Members of the public are also being asked to share their experiences of cosmetic surgery and views on issues including the safety of products used in such procedures, care during and after treatment, and how much advice is given to those considering surgery.

The review comes as a ComRes survey of 1,762 people showed that only half take the qualifications of a practitioner into consideration - 54% for surgery and 50% for non-surgical procedures. Two thirds of those questioned, 67% for surgery and 66% for non-surgical procedures, said cost is a factor for them when deciding whether to have surgery.

Mr Lansley has specifically asked the review to consider implementing a national implant register, for products like breast implants, to identify all those who received the product and details of their operation.

Fazel Fatah, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), said: "We are delighted that the review is now under way. The BAAPS has been campaigning for many years for better regulations of the cosmetic surgery sector to protect patients.

"The BAAPS will fully co-operate with the process at all its stages as we would like to ensure a positive outcome from the review that provides safety and security for patients who choose to have cosmetic surgery, and to end unethical practices of patient inducements on the basis of cost.

"We would like the review to take this opportunity to draw a clear line between cosmetic treatments that are seen as a commodity and cosmetic surgery that is serious medical treatment which must be provided by fully trained and qualified surgeons.

"We also welcome the establishment of a compulsory independent national register for breast implants and other implantable materials including those that are given through injections.

"We would very much like the review to look at the issue of advertising of cosmetic surgery that is widely used to prey on the vulnerability of patients who seek cosmetic surgery for psychological reasons. If an outright ban is not achievable, then a new strict code of advertising is badly needed to protect patients."

James Frame, professor of aesthetic plastic surgery at Anglia Ruskin University, said there should be a greater emphasis on the protection of patients, some of whom are highly vulnerable, and regulation of the way services are advertised.

He said: "Everybody has been asking for something like this for the past 30 years. There has to be a fundamental sea change in the marketing of cosmetic surgery and non-surgical aesthetics in our country."

Professor Frame said only those with the most money are able to advertise in magazines and pay for search engine optimisation, attracting the most clients, and called for "responsible advertising".

He added: "At the moment, it's treated like a bit of a game and it shouldn't be like that. I've every faith the review will do a good job."