New standards for cosmetic procedures

  • Date: 12 April 2016

DOCTORS who carry out cosmetic procedures must not use gimmicks such as two-for-one offers or prize giveaways to attract patients, according to new standards published by the General Medical Council.

Patients must also be given sufficient time and information to think about any proposed procedures, and consent should be obtained by the doctor who will carry out the treatment.

The guidance comes into force from June and covers both surgical (such as breast augmentation) and non-surgical (such as Botox) procedures carried out by doctors anywhere in the UK.

It follows a review of the cosmetic industry in England by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh which highlighted the risks associated with cosmetic interventions and the need for greater patient protection. The review was prompted by concerns around the use of faulty PIP breast implants which were withdrawn in the UK in 2010.

Health minister Ben Gummer said the new GMC guidance should help end the "lottery of poor practice in parts of the cosmetic industry".

One of the key points in the guidance is responsible advertising and marketing of services. Adverts must be "clear, factual, and not use promotional tactics, such as 'two-for-one' offers to encourage patients to make ill-considered decisions". It also bans clinics from offering procedures as prizes.

Consent is another key element, and the GMC is clear that this must be obtained by the doctor who will carry out the procedure and not be delegated to another team member. Patients should be given all the information they need and should not be rushed into making a decision. They should be told who to contact and what will happen in the event of any complications, and clinicians must keep "full and accurate records of consultations, using systems to identify and act on any patient safety concerns".

GMC Chair Professor Terence Stephenson said patients considering whether to have a cosmetic procedure were often "extremely vulnerable" and that: "Above all, [they] need honest and straightforward advice which allows them to understand the risks as well as the possible benefits.

"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."

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said the new guidance addresses the risk areas raised in his review, including poor follow-up care and record keeping, and misleading advertising and marketing techniques. He added that the standards will "drive safer care, more ethical practice and, overall, a better experience for people undergoing cosmetic procedures".

The GMC said it has been working closely with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) which has published its own set of professional standards for cosmetic surgery to supplement the regulator’s guidance.

The RCS also plans to launch a new certification scheme later this year with the aim of allowing patients to more easily search for an appropriate surgeon.


This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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