RCS calls for new law to protect patients undergoing cosmetic surgery, as it publishes professional standards
12 Apr 2016
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has called on the government to introduce legislation in the next Queen’s Speech to protect patients undergoing cosmetic surgery, as the organisation and the General Medical Council (GMC) publish new standards on cosmetic procedures.
The RCS’s new Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery are intended to improve patient safety and standards in the industry, by stipulating that only surgeons with the appropriate training and experience should undertake cosmetic surgery, as well as the ethics and behaviour expected of them. They supplement new guidance the GMC has published today for all doctors who carry out cosmetic interventions, including non-surgical procedures such as Botox® and hair transplants, and are intended to be read alongside it.
However, to help make the regulation of cosmetic surgery as robust as possible, the RCS believes the government should also give the GMC a new regulatory power to highlight to the public and employers which surgeons have been certified by the RCS to carry out cosmetic surgery.
The next Queen’s Speech - when the government will set out its legislative agenda - is on 18 May 2016.
Mr Stephen Cannon, Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:
“Cosmetic surgery is a booming industry, but the law currently allows any doctor - surgeon or otherwise - to perform cosmetic surgery in the private sector. This can make it difficult for patients to identify an experienced, highly trained surgeon from someone who should not be practising.
“To correct this, we will launch a new system of certification later this year which will help patients to find a certified surgeon, who has the appropriate training, experience and insurance to carry out a procedure - such as a tummy tuck or nose job.
“Giving the professional regulator, the GMC, the power to annotate its register of doctors, will give our certification system extra teeth and regulatory backing.”
Today’s new Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery will underpin the new system of certification. By adhering to the RCS’s new Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery, surgeons will ensure that the needs of individual patients are at the centre of the consultation discussion, and that they are fully informed about the potential risks and likely outcome of the procedure. The document recommends that:
- Surgeons performing cosmetic surgery should be certified in the area in which they practise.
- The operating surgeon should lead the consultation with the patient to outline the risks of the procedure, likely outcome and to provide the information that will help them decide whether or not to undergo surgery.
- The operating surgeon must also obtain written consent from a patient themselves - and not delegate it to a colleague.
- Patients should be offered a cooling off period of at least two weeks before they consent to an operation to give them time to reflect on a decision.
- Surgeons must make sure they have appropriate indemnity insurance to cover the procedures they are undertaking.
- Surgeons should refrain from using financial inducements such as time-limited offers and discounts.
Mr Cannon explained: “The vast majority of surgeons performing cosmetic surgery in the private sector are meeting the highest standards of patient care, but we want to make sure this is the case in every hospital and clinic around the country.
“We have published these Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery today, to raise the bar and make it absolutely clear what we expect of all surgeons working in the private sector. The operating surgeon should lead the consultation with the patient on the risks and possible outcomes of cosmetic surgery, to help them to decide whether or not to undergo a procedure. They should also obtain written consent from the patient themselves and not delegate it to a colleague.
“Our message to surgeons and doctors working in the cosmetic surgery industry is simple: if you are not working to the surgical standards we have set out and published today, you should not be treating patients at all. We, and the regulators, will do everything within our powers to protect patients and stop unscrupulous individuals from practising.”
Notes to editors
- The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
- For more information, or for a copy of the RCS’s Professional Standards for Cosmetic Surgery, please contact the RCS Press Office on 020 7869 6047/6052 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Supportive quotes from the surgical specialty associations are available