The cosmetic treatments industry has had a call to arms. Wednesday saw the release of the Keogh Report, a review on cosmetic treatment procedures commissioned by the government, led by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and huge changes for practitioners are nigh.
The report is designed to help guide the overall review process of procedures and care guidelines within the cosmetic treatment business, to ensure that there's an industry-wide standard of care to which practitioners can be held. It's about accountability: finally.
The review has several recommendations, not least to appoint an ombudsman to oversee all private health care, including cosmetic procedures, to assist those who have been treated poorly. Development of a Cosmetic Surgery Interspeciality of the Royal College of Surgeons will also mean heightened responsibility.
Most encouragingly, the report also recommends that dermal fillers (anti-wrinkle injectables) must now be made prescription. Before the report Sir Keogh said: "I am concerned that some practitioners who are giving non-surgical treatments may not have had any appropriate training whatsoever. This leaves people exposed to unreasonable risks, and possibly permanent damage."
He also added, "Aesthetic injectables should only ever be provided by medical professionals."
So why am I so embracing of the report? Because for far too long there have been too many unregulated procedures that reflect badly on the whole industry. Dermal fillers and laser treatments for wrinkles and hair reduction make up 90% of the sector, worth over £2 billion in the U.K., yet these procedures have been subject to little or no regulation, despite the fact that they can have major, permanent effects on people's health and wellbeing. This gives even the most outstanding clinics a bad name.
For a nationwide company like mine, Courthouse Clinics, the recommendations have hugely positive ramifications. There are often higher levels of scrutiny within the cosmetic surgery arena, due to enhanced marketing, competition and public interest. Particularly after the 'PIP Storm' of last year, we needed, as an industry in the spotlight, a review board.
It's been a long time coming to look at how legitimate practitioners and patients alike could protect themselves from bogus "technicians" practicing unlicensed out of beauty salons, compromising the integrity of establishments like my practice. Courthouse Clinics, like many other reputable establishments, are part of IHAS- the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services- and have contributed much of the safety data that has led to the conclusions reached.
IHAS's clinical guidelines Good Medical Practice in Cosmetic Surgery, released in April 2013, informed the Keogh Review, with initial public feedback centering around the notion that 'current regulatory framework doesn't do enough to support customer rights or patient safety.'
The focus is to implement tighter regulation on standards of patient care. Professionals across the board believe that all patients are entitled to good standards of practice and care from their doctor, and now even the most dubious practices will be forced to up their game.
Professionals must maintain a record of patients treated, either personally or in a facility made available for such treatments. The Keogh Report's National Filler Register means clinics and doctors will have to report the filler used, the patient, and the practitioner's details. This will be designed to keep track of any complications and to safeguard the public if they experience complications.
Obtaining consent is also a huge focus- this is never a simple irrelevance. All clinics have an obligation to ensure that people are aware of all implications and risks of their procedure, with adequate time to consider their decision before proceeding.
And so to advertising. The path to cosmetic treatments had become, in the very worst cases, not unlike that of selling used cars- a bargain basement mentality towards procedures. If clinics are offering discounted rates or living social coupons it compromises the level of patient care they can afford to provide: a code of conduct is being welcomed wholeheartedly by us to limit this. Compliance is mandatory for all practitioners, to ensure that across the board patients are given only the best care. Having the industry tarred with the same brush of a few rogue "doctors" will be a thing of the past. The future looks much brighter for patients and doctors alike.
The entire review is about putting the patient at the heart of cosmetic treatments. Every patient has the right to be protected by legislation that makes them feel confident that they will be well looked after and safe. For some of us, this has always been the case. Fortunately for everyone, it will now be universal.