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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Cosmetic clinics under fire
Some clinics didn't carry out checks on surgeons
Many cosmetic surgery clinics in England fail to carry out proper checks on their surgeons' qualifications, a study has found.

The findings come in a damning report from the National Care Standards Commission.

It also found some clinics also use misleading statements in their advertisements while others do not have proper systems for monitoring the quality of their work.

The government has now ordered a review of cosmetic clinics across England.

London clinics

The report followed the commission's first ever inspection of cosmetic surgery clinics.

The watchdog inspected 22 small and medium size clinics in London during March and April.

I would now like to see a full review of cosmetic surgery practice across England
Sir Liam Donaldson,
Chief medical officer

It deliberately excluded large corporations from its review.

It found many of the clinics it inspected scored poorly on procedures to check the identity and qualifications of their surgeons.

Very few had robust systems for seeking patients' views and, although some had a complaints policy, many fell short in helping people or relatives who were unhappy with their surgery.

The commission also highlighted misleading claims in advertising literature, such as "light treatment - beautiful skin without surgery - achieve amazing looking skin in under an hour".

It found some sole practitioners or small clinics had no robust systems in place to collect data on the quality of their clinical work or monitor performance.

Ron Kerr, chief executive of the NCSC, said: "There is no excuse for not carrying out proper checks on consultants, and their qualifications, and good records management is essential for tracking patients' history and monitoring clinical activity.

"These elementary procedures provide vital safeguards for patients and contribute to good patient-centred care."

The NCSC has recommended that new self assessment tools should be developed for specific surgery techniques to help clinics measure and monitor performance.

It also called for a more thorough review of cosmetic surgery.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England, said the report was the "beginnings of scrutiny in this area of private health care".

"I would now like to see a full review of cosmetic surgery practice across England and I am in discussion with the NCSC as to how this might be taken forward," he said.

Independent sector

Sally Taber, of the Independent Healthcare Association, welcomed the report.

She said: "The absolute priority of us all must be to ensure that patients receive the best possible standard of care.

"There can be no excuses for second class service and we very much welcome a sector-wide review."

"Mainstream independent hospitals have an excellent track record on cosmetic surgery. They are subject to tremendous quality control procedures.

"The focus now is very much on the smaller stand alone clinics. Most of these also provide excellent care, but there is a need to ensure uniformity across the sector in particular around qualifications of medical staff, ethical advertising and follow-up care."

The NCSC was set up in 2000 to inspect a range of social care, voluntary and private healthcare services.


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