Published on 31 Dec 2012 Sections ,

Time to ‘scrub up’ plastic surgery rules

The hard sell might be appropriate for marketing double glazing – but it must be stopped in the cosmetic surgery industry, suggests an interim report following the PIP breast implant scandal.

Cut-price deals, aggressive marketing techniques and “two-for-one” deals have no place in the cosmetic surgery industry, the interim report suggested.

Patients should have time and space to reflect properly before committing to the “serious step” of surgery, experts said, also stressing that a two-stage consent process could be an option.

The review into the cosmetic surgery industry was set up after the PIP breast implants scandal earlier this year, which became an international health scare when it emerged that the implants were faulty and filled with a non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses. Around 40,000 women in the UK received implants from the now-closed French Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP), mostly in private clinics.

This may be the right approach for selling double glazing but not for people considering whether to have surgery. Science writer Vivienne Parry

Since then, the public, the industry and patient groups have submitted ideas on how to safeguard people thinking of having cosmetic procedures. Today’s interim report will feed into the eventual review which is due to be published in March.

The report was welcomed by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), which said some of the proposals would need tightening up if they were to be implemented.

Time to scrub up

Science writer Vivienne Parry, one of the Keogh review committee members, said: “Aggressive marketing techniques are often used to maximise profit. This may be the right approach for selling double glazing but not for people having or considering whether to have surgery.

“Everyone who decides to have cosmetic surgery should have time to think about the risks. Time-limited deals and offers on voucher websites pressure people to make snap decisions.”

The review panel includes PIP campaigner Catherine Kydd, former medical director of Bupa Andrew Vallance-Owen, GP Dr Rosemary Leonard and Marie Claire magazine editor Trish Halpin. It was set up by then-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley after the PIP scandal and could lead to tighter regulations of the industry, although the Department of Health is not bound by the suggestions in the report and could propose its own regulations in the March report.

BAAPS president Rajiv Grover said the suggestions in the interim report were valuable.

“We have made the comparison between cosmetic surgery being sold as a commodity, much as a washing machine or off-the-shelf beauty products, many times before,” he said.

“Medical procedures simply cannot continue to be promoted in this manner and although it is tragic that it has taken a crisis of the magnitude of PIP to make the world sit up and take notice, it seems we’re finally making headway towards a safer environment for patients. It’s time to scrub up and take action to restore confidence in our sector.”