Mr Stephen Cannon, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, urges people to take their time to decide whether to undergo a cosmetic procedure and offers new resources to help inform that choice.
The cosmetic surgery industry is booming – the number of people choosing to have operations such as breast enlargements, eye lid surgery and face-lifts has soared in recent years.
Nowadays, an individual’s ability to look up a procedure online, and then find a private hospital which offers surgery near their home, can make the whole process very accessible and easy to do.
Undergoing cosmetic surgery is a big decision which should never be taken lightly.
Slick marketing campaigns and persuasive advertising can also give people the impression that they’re only a few steps away from achieving a model’s figure or look.
But undergoing cosmetic surgery is a big decision which should never be taken lightly. That’s why today the General Medical Council has published information for patients who are considering some type of cosmetic procedure – be it a small procedure like Botox or an operation.
The Royal College of Surgeons is also going to publish a wealth of information for patients on its website this summer, to help patients make an informed decision about whether or not to have cosmetic surgery.
Weighing up the risks and potential benefits of cosmetic interventions
The messages in these documents are consistent and clear. We want to encourage patients to ask themselves about why they are thinking about cosmetic procedures and surgery, and before agreeing to have the treatment, to make sure they have weighed up the risks against the potential benefits.
We want patients to check that they have chosen a doctor, or if they are considering surgery, a surgeon, who has the appropriate training, experience and insurance to perform that procedure here in the UK.
Patients should never feel pressured into consenting to any type of cosmetic procedure. Put simply: we want you to take your time.
We, and the General Medical Council, are clear that patients should never feel pressured into consenting to any type of cosmetic procedure. Put simply: we want you to take your time. The RCS recommends that you take at least two weeks between your initial consultation with the operating surgeon and consenting to surgery.
The information we and the GMC have produced is aimed at you, our patients. But we hope that GPs, doctors, surgeons and private hospitals will also direct their patients to these resources so they can then use them to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with treatment.
Choosing the right doctor for you
The RCS website also includes information about how to choose a surgeon. It explains that they should be on the General Medical Council’s specialist register for the area of practice relevant to your procedure.
Through my role as Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (which was set up following Sir Bruce Keogh’s Review about making cosmetic surgery safer for patients), I have heard and seen how vulnerable patients can be to unscrupulous individuals. The people we spoke to all mentioned the glamour and glitz of the private hospitals they had visited and of the promises of life-time after-care packages.
We want to make sure patients are treated by the vast majority of surgeons in this country who have the training and experience they need, rather than by uninsured, rogue practitioners.
But, when things went wrong, they found that their contract was actually with the surgeon, not the hospital where they had been treated, and that in some cases, that surgeon had flown in from abroad, was not insured to carry out the procedure in the UK, and sometimes had gone back to their home country already.
The vast majority of surgeons practising cosmetic surgery in this country have the training and experience they need. We want to make sure patients are treated by those individuals rather than by uninsured, rogue practitioners. So, please think carefully before cosmetic surgery and if you do decide to go ahead, make sure you choose the right surgeon.
Mr Stephen Cannon is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. He is Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons and Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee.
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Consultant Plastic Surgeon Mr David Ward makes the case for tougher standards for cosmetic doctors and better information for patients