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Cosmetic surgery industry under review

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Everyone who decides to have cosmetic surgery should have time to think about the risks.

A government review has called for tighter regulations for the cosmetic surgery industry.

Commissioned by then-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in August 2012, it is thought that a stricter control of surgical procedures and a ban on cheap sales and marketing techniques will be made into law.

A request for the report was made following the PIP scandal last year when it was found that around 47,000 women had unknowingly received faulty breast implants.

The review was headed by the NHS’s medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh.

He found that very few control barriers currently existed to prevent cosmetic surgery companies from exploiting and pressuring potential customers into ‘limited-time only’ sales deals.

“It’s not always acknowledged that people undergoing cosmetic interventions are not only consumers but also patients,” Keogh said.

Such patients had a tendency to be lured in by offers, resulting in them making hasty and unconsidered decisions to go ahead with high-risk surgical procedures.

“They are taking decisions about medical procedures that can have a profound impact on their health.

“The supply and demand for procedures has outgrown the existing legislation,” he said.

Vivienne Parry, committee member of the review added, “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.”

Rajiv Grover, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), welcomed the results of Keogh’s review.

“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,” he added.

Current Health Minister, Lord Howe also commented on the report findings, saying, “It has been a worrying year for women affected by the PiP scare.”

“It has been our number one priority since this issue came to light 12 months ago to make sure women have been kept well informed and received the appropriate clinical advice and care.”

It is thought that bans on manipulative sales techniques from nurses and surgeons, voucher offers and free consultations are just some of the mechanisms needed to prevent instances such as PIP from reoccurring.

“We can’t stop someone in another country committing a crime – as happened in this [PIP] case,” Lord Howe added, “but we can make sure that people are properly supported and that they get all the information they need before deciding to have cosmetic surgery.”

Sarah Ditum, writing in the Guardian, added that Keogh’s review brought to light how much the cosmetic surgery industry needed to reassess its motives in order to regain a sense of respectability and trust from the public.

“The cosmetic surgery industry is based on telling women (and increasingly men, though they’re still in the minority of patients) that they could have better, happier lives if only they’d make themselves look a bit more perfect,” she said.

“As an individual decision, everyone has the right to do as they wish with their own body within reasonable protections; as the basis for an industry, with advertising designed to show up your flaws and credit agreements to help you pay for their remedy, it’s repugnant.”

The final report and Keogh’s recommendations are expected in March 2013.

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