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Government announces proposals for reform of cosmetic procedures industry

View profile for Carl Johnson
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The Department of Health has set out proposals for every breast implant operation in England to be recorded on a new register. This follows the recommendation of Sir Bruce Keogh following the scandal surrounding breast implants manufactured by the French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).

The PIP scandal came to light following reports of high numbers of complaints of ruptured implants. It emerged that PIP had been producing implants containing industrial grade silicone. The scandal resulted in high profile criminal proceedings in France and saw the company’s founder, Jean-Claude Mas, convicted of fraud in December 2013. It is estimated that up to 300,000 women worldwide were affected by the scandal, however poor record-keeping by a number of clinics meant that some surgeons were unable to tell their patients if they had been affected.

The new register will record the type of implant used in all operations, as is the case with knee and hip surgery. The proposals will include greater restrictions on advertising within the cosmetics procedures industry and a ban on aggressive marketing campaigns such as ‘2 for 1’ offers and limited time offers. This follows long-standing complaints that such marketing campaigns trivialise cosmetic surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons is also set to establish new qualifications and standards for cosmetic surgery as part of the programme of reform.

Dr Daniel Poulter, a Minister within the Department of Health and a qualified doctor, said: “For too long the cosmetics industry has been completely unregulated. This has to change so we are taking robust action to clamp down on the cosmetic cowboys. For the first time there will be proper training courses for cosmetic surgeons, and we will be setting up a breast implant registry which will better track the quality of implants and, if required, enable us to act much more quickly to protect women and patients.”

The proposals have been welcomed by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). The organisation’s President, Rajiv Grover said: “A centralised and comprehensive database is well overdue and essential for the public’s safety and peace of mind. However Mr. Grover called for the proposals on advertising to go much further: “Whilst we’re pleased that there is to be a clampdown on time-linked incentives that place undue pressure on the public, we continue to call for an outright ban on all advertising of medical procedures.”

By Carl Johnson, associate solicitor in the professional discipline and regulatory department.