23/01/2012 09:31 GMT | Updated 23/01/2012 09:32 GMT

PIP Breast Implants: Ban Adverts For Cosmetic Surgery And Crackdown On 'Cowboys', Say Surgeons

All cosmetic surgery advertising should be banned and annual checks carried out on surgeons, advised experts in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has called to tighten up regulation of the "cowboy" market in the UK with a "six-point plan".

Government advisers are considering a range of measures for the sector following the PIP breast implant scandal, which has affected around 40,000 British women.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, who is leading a Government review, said on Friday that an insurance scheme for cosmetic surgery patients - similar to that in the travel industry - could be introduced.

Companies pay a subscription to become members of the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), which provides a fund for people to fall back on if something goes wrong.

A breast implant registry is also under consideration by the Government to record details of all operations.

BAAPS is calling on ministers to go further, saying cosmetic surgery as a medical procedure should not be advertised, similar to the ban that exists on promoting prescription medicines.

The association has long campaigned against what it regards as "marketing gimmicks" by cosmetic surgery firms, such as competitions to win breast implants and reality makeover shows.

BAAPS also wants a register of all types of silicone implants including those for the breast, buttock, pectoral muscle and calf, and for dermal fillers, such as Botox, to be reclassified as medicines, which are subject to more stringent rules.

A compulsory register of all practitioners rather than the present voluntary one for clinics, and all should undergo an annual audit as a membership requirement.

This would be part of a revalidation process and would be regarded as essential to allow clinicians to carry on practising.

BAAPS also wants a revalidation exercise around products with a CE mark.

The PIP implants at the centre of the recent scandal had a CE mark but were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for mattresses.

BAAPS president Fazel Fatah said that despite the scandal, "it is an absolute joy for us at the BAAPS to hear that this year, the Government will be examining the lax regulations in our sector".

He added: "Over the last decade the BAAPS has worked tirelessly to educate the public on the many aggressive marketing gimmicks that not only trivialise surgery but endanger the patient.

"We have warned against the unrealistic expectations set by reality 'makeover' shows and against crass competition prizes promising 'mummy makeovers' and body overhauls.

"In no other area of surgery would one encounter Christmas vouchers and two-for-one offers - the pendulum has swung too far, and it is time for change. Thus we are delighted with the upcoming inquiry and put forward our realistic and achievable proposals for consideration by the Government."

Thousands of women across the globe received PIP implants manufactured by the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP).

In the UK, the Government has said anxious patients who had their surgery on the NHS will be able to have the implants removed and replaced free of charge.

The NHS will also pay to remove, but not replace, implants if a private clinic refuses or no longer exists.

The Harley Medical Group, which fitted PIP breast implants to almost 14,000 British women, has said it will not replace them free of charge.

Another private company, Transform, has also said it will not replace them.

Surgicare has said it will remove PIP implants for free but any women wanting replacement implants will have to pay £2,500.

Other providers including BMI Healthcare, Nuffield Health and Spire have agreed to offer free removal.

Prof Keogh, who is NHS medical director, said: "I am working with experts from the plastic surgery field to look at what we can do to make sure people who choose to have cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic procedures are safe.

"I will be looking at all aspects of regulation - at the regulation of implants and fillers, at whether the people who carry out cosmetic interventions have the right skills, at whether the clinics look after the care and welfare of their patients.

"There is already considerable support for a comprehensive register of all surgical devices - from breast implants to heart valves to replacement joints.

"We will be looking critically at the value and feasibility of such a register and at how best to put this into action."