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New GMC Guidelines for Cosmetic Surgery

The GMC (General Medical Council) has produced new guidelines following a review of the cosmetic surgery industry in England which will come into force from June 2016, covering both surgical and non-surgical procedures.

The guidelines are the result of years of campaigning, originally triggered by the PiP breast implant global health scare in 2010, pushing cosmetic surgery into the public eye encouraging a report into the cosmetic industry to be carried out.
The popularity of cosmetic surgery has increased in recent years and recent figures have recorded 51,000 people in Britain underwent cosmetic surgery in 2015 which is up 13% on 2014. Many of those people will have undergone surgery unaware of the loose regulations surrounding the cosmetic industry.
Doctors who carry out cosmetic surgery must now advertise and market their services responsibly and give patients the time to change their mind as set out in the new guidelines set by the GMC. Patients must also be given time to reflect, ensuring they don’t feel rushed or pressured, whilst doctors and surgeons are also being told that they must seek a patient’s consent themselves, personally discussing it with their patient and not delegating the responsibility. That said, they are no longer able to market the product in ways such as ‘time limited’ deals or ‘buy one get one free’ promotional trends.
Under these new guidelines it is essential that doctors performing cosmetic procedures have the necessary skills to carry out the procedures safely. They must also ensure that any products used are safe prior to the surgery being performed; surprisingly this is something that is not already in place.
The new guidelines are published on the GMC website in jargon free terms, making it easy for everyone to understand. Whilst everyone considering surgery may not read the guidelines (for providers) there is also a guide for patients including things to consider prior to surgery and questions to ask their doctor.
It is imperative that all patients are given full and proper advice, information and informed consent prior to surgery so that they are aware of the potential risks involved. Patients must be protected should surgery not go to plan whether negligently or otherwise.
In negligent cases if a duty of care was breached and damage was caused to the Claimant, they would have a mechanism to pursue a claim for damages suffered. In cosmetic surgery if the ‘desired outcome’ is not received, this is not necessary negligent, it may fall within the risks of the surgery. This is why it is fundamental that all patients are advised appropriately.
To avoid cases like this full and accurate records of all consultations will now be required. Doctors and surgeons will also be required to provide continuity of care, meaning they must ensure patients know who to contact and how their care will be managed if they experience any complications.
The GMC acknowledges that most doctors who perform cosmetic procedures do this already, but admits that it is poor practice for those that don’t, and under the new guidelines is something that must be followed.
The RCS (Royal College of Surgeons) have said that ‘the message to surgeons and doctors working in the cosmetic industry is simple: if you are not working to the surgical standards we have set out… you should not be treating patients at all’. This may well see doctors and surgeons facing disciplinary hearings or being struck off if the do not comply with the new guidelines.
Through our work in handling cosmetic surgery negligence claims at Wilson Browne Solicitors we see first hand how negligent procedures can have the complete opposite impact on an individual’s life to what they had hoped for. This could be from the surgery being performed negligently to not being given full advice including the risks and benefits of the surgery before consenting.
When a patient chooses to have a procedure in a bid to give them greater confidence, if things go wrong it can have a hugely negative impact on their long-term health, appearance, and psychological state.
The GMC guidelines only apply to registered medical professionals and in reality there are many companies that offer cosmetic procedures performed by non qualified medical practitioners, such as an assistant at a clinic. No action towards a non-medically qualified practitioner can be made if negligence occurs. If surgery is performed by someone not medically qualified then the patient will need to be aware of this before consenting.
The new guidelines can be viewed by clicking HERE.

With these guidelines in place it is hoped that it will be the end of botched and unethical procedures, but only by ensuring these guidelines are adhered to. Please contact our Medical Negligence team for more information or advice.