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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 08:08 GMT
Laser treatment deregulation fear
Laser treatment
Laser treatment can carry risks
Plastic surgeons have denounced plans to make it easier for private clinics to provide laser treatments for cosmetic purposes like hair removal.

The Department of Health is holding a consultation on deregulating some types of non-surgical treatment by removing the need for clinics to register.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons called this "absurd".

But the government argues that a balance needed to be struck between risk and regulation.

It is currently holding a 12 week consultation on the partial deregulation of what are known as Class 3B or Class 4 laser products and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments.

These are most often used for the removal of large patches of hair, reducing lines and wrinkles, and improving the appearance of scars and damaged skin.

There are currently around 850 private sector and voluntary clinics providing these services which are registered with the Healthcare Commission, which monitors standards in independent and NHS organisations.

Under the proposals, these would no longer be regulated by this body - potentially paving the way for more clinics to start offering the service.

"The levels of risk involved in the use of lasers/IPL equipment for non-surgical purposes leads us to believe that the current regulatory regime is not proportionate to the risk of harm to patients," the consultation document reads.

'Private choice'

But BAAPS said while lasers and IPL could be safe if administered in an "appropriate environment" and by a "properly trained clinician", the public should be aware that these procedures posed risks ranging from irritated skin to burns.

It is absurd that politicians, who know very little about the limitations and complications of such treatments, should seek to further deregulate
Douglas McGeorge

"In an environment where clinicians are asking for tighter regulations it is absurd that politicians, who know very little about the limitations and complications of such treatments, should seek to further deregulate," said Douglas McGeorge, the body's president and a consultant plastic surgeon.

"Sooner or later patients will suffer as a result of these political moves and the government will have to take responsibility for their actions."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that people opting for services such as hair removal did so of their own volition, and privately.

"A balance will always need to be struck between the risk presented by a particular non-surgical cosmetic treatment and the cost to the publicly-funded regulatory body.

"The use of lasers in surgery would continue to be subject to Healthcare Commission regulation, as would laser eye surgery."

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