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GMC publishes ‘long overdue’ guidelines for doctors providing cosmetic treatments

New cosmetic surgery guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) are designed to apply to all medical practitioners, who are increasingly providing non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

Almost 20% of cosmetic intervention cases notified to the Medical Defence Union, which provides medical indemnity to doctors, in the last 10 years involved non-surgical procedures such as botulinum toxin and dermal fillers and some involved GPs and other clinicians beside plastic surgeons.

The guidelines include requirements to tell the patient they can change their mind at any point, not to provide the treatment if the doctor feels it will not achieve the outcome the patient seeks and to be open with patients about the potential risks of surgery and any relevant financial or commercial interests the doctor holds.

Professor Terence Stephenson, chair of the GMC, said: “Cosmetic interventions should not be entered into lightly or without serious considerations. Above all, patients considering whether to have such a procedure need honest and straightforward advice which allows them to understand the risks as well as the possible benefits.

“It is a challenging area of medicine which deals with patients who can be extremely vulnerable. Most doctors who practise in this area do so to a high standard but we do sometimes come across poor practice, and it is important that patients are protected from this and that doctors understand what is expected from them.”

A 2013 review of cosmetic surgery, chaired by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, recommended better regulation and training, particularly for non-surgical procedures.

Ben Gummer, parliamentary under-secretary for quality at the Department of Health, said: that anyone who chooses to have a cosmetic procedure should expect to have high-quality and safe clinical care.

“This new guidance for doctors is an important step forward in improving standards and ending the lottery of poor practice in parts of the cosmetic industry,” he added.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said she welcomed these new cosmetic surgery guidelines, “which are long overdue”.

“It is vital that patients understand the risks involved with such procedures and that they feel fully informed when making the choice to undertake cosmetic surgery,” said Murphy.

“Patients should be provided with all relevant information needed to guide their decisions, and they should feel able to ask questions that will reassure them.  It is essential that they are supported and feel empowered to give informed consent.”


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