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EDITIONS
Cosmetic surgery rules 'not tough enough'
Surgery
Not all cosmetic surgeons are fully qualified
Proposals to tighten up regulation of cosmetic surgery will not fully protect patients from unqualified practitioners, an expert has said.

The Department of Health is proposing that cosmetic surgeons be medically qualified and have attended a postgraduate course.

However, Clive Orton, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said these plans do not go far enough.

He said that practitioners ought to be able to demonstrate full training and on-going education in aesthetic surgery.

Mr Orton also said the profession had strongly opposed the idea that those already practising cosmetic surgery without full training should be allowed to continue.

Writing in this week's British Medical Journal, Mr Orton said this could allow unqualified surgeons to continue practising for decades.

Complex skill

The widespread belief that cosmetic surgery was quick and easy was completely wrong, said Mr Orton.

"In fact most cosmetic surgery operations are extremely complex and require a high degree of anatomical knowledge and surgical skill as well as aesthetic appreciation."

He said many patients did not seek prior advice from their GP. Instead, they went to private clinics - where they might not actually meet their surgeon until just before their operation.

New government rules insist on pre-operative consultations by the surgeon and a ban on surgery within two weeks of consultation.

The National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) will also vet surgeons who generate regular complaints - and ban those whose work is not up to scratch.

However, Mr Orton warns: "This will probably not happen until considerable harm will have been done to too many patients."

He said the public would be better protected if people consulted GPs first, but he believes self referrals are likely to increase rather than decrease.

"In the face of increased public demand, glossy advertising and inadequate regulation, only the most sanguine optimist can believe that the situation has been controlled adequately."

New minimum standards for cosmetic surgery came into effect from April this year and the NCSC has been asked to scrutinise their effectiveness to report back to the Government by April next year.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was also liaising with cosmetic surgery providers, patients' groups and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Under the current regulations, all cosmetic surgeons working independently are required to register with the NCSC and hospitals must ensure all staff have the correct qualifications.

He said: "This is the strongest action that the government has taken on independent healthcare.

"For the first time ever, it will regulate to ensure the highest quality of clinical care and patient safety."

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Health
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