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The ugly truths of cosmetic surgery

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Earlier this week, an official review identified an alarming lack of regulation and ‘professional greed’ in relation to the performance of cosmetic surgery.
The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death found that surgeons at many cosmetic surgery hospitals and clinics do not have the necessary experience to perform the operations on offer. In particular, from a poll of 361 sites, the report warns that patients were at risk from a ‘have a go procedure’ culture.
With the exception of breast enlargement operations, the most common cosmetic procedure, the majority of sites perform fewer than twenty of the offered procedures each year. This will inevitably lead to surgeons not performing some procedures frequently enough to maintain their skills. In addition to the experience of surgeons, the review also raised significant concerns that only 44% of operating theatres are properly equipped with 22% of sites not having resuscitation teams on hand at all times.
Professional greed
The review highlights that many hospitals and surgeries are breaching advertising rules relating to financial incentives and discounts, which suggests that there is a focus on profit margins rather than the wellbeing of patients. 
The review also indicates that there is often a lack of concern about operating on people who have a fragile state of mind, with only 35% of the sites performing any psychological evaluation.
With any procedure it is essential that patients are appropriately consulted. The risks of surgery should be discussed fully and non-surgical alternatives should also be considered. It is paramount that the expectations of patients are managed and that they are fully aware of the limits of the procedures being considered. Despite this, 32% of the sites do not offer a cooling-off period, meaning that many individuals are not provided with an opportunity to make a considered and reasoned decision to proceed.
The review emphasises the difficulty in obtaining information about the cosmetic industry. 50% of the sites approached failed to answer questions. In addition, 10% of the clinics approached ceased to exist before the study was completed.
Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), warns that "shabby treatment" is putting lives at risk. However, despite this, there are still an estimated 100,000 cosmetic procedures performed in the UK every year and this figure continues to rise. It is therefore my opinion that unless urgent changes are made to regulate and govern cosmetic surgery there will be an increased demand for claims for compensation.
By clinical negligence solicitor, Tom Mooney