By Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
AS specialists in handling many cases in which patients have suffered from substandard cosmetic surgery procedures, we at Neil Hudgell Solicitors have seen for some time the need for much tighter regulations over the entire industry.
Cosmetic surgery has become very popular in recent years – perhaps some would even say fashionable – with increasing numbers of people prepared to go under the knife in a bid to alter and improve their appearance.
However, many patients suffer at the hands of surgeons who quite simply shouldn’t be carrying out the work.
Indeed, many of our clients have been completely unaware that, until now, there has been no pre-requisite for a cosmetic surgeon to have any specialist experience of any of the procedures they perform.
With demand increasing across the UK (latest stats show more than 50,000 cosmetic procedures were carried out in 2013 – a rise of 17 per cent on the previous year), this lack of tight regulations has left the door open for ‘cowboy behaviour’.
Surgeons perform procedures they don’t have the skills for in order to cash in, and when errors are made, serious complications can arise.
A large proportion of the cosmetic surgery compensation claims we handle involve negligence in breast implant surgery, face lift surgery and liposuction.
Errors in any such operations are, of course, hugely upsetting and difficult for the patient. They are often left feeling very dissatisfied with the result, sometimes to the point of feeling they can’t leave their home.
We therefore welcome proposals from the Royal College of Surgeons to introduce a new system which will see surgeons certified for each specific procedure. Doctors will have to be a proven specialist in their field and provide evidence about their success rates.
If it improves the quality of the industry nationally, and helps the public make better informed decisions about the surgeons they use, it has to be a positive step.
Stephen Cannon, the vice-president of the College, says it should “Stop the general practitioner doing the nose job, stop the dermatologist lifting someone’s breasts, and stop all that cowboy behaviour which goes on.”
We also agree with the thoughts of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps), which has called for the system to be “mandatory and policed”, and not voluntary as currently suggested.
The entire industry has been under intense scrutiny since thousands of women were fitted with sub-standard breast implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP). Ministers described it as a “cowboy industry” of “murky practices”.
This certainly looks a positive step to cleaning the industry up, and reducing the risk for patients who feel cosmetic surgery is the best step for them.