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Has 2021 seen a u-turn in cosmetic surgery safety standards?

By Kathryn Salt, Solicitor

Regulation in the beauty and cosmetic surgical industry has been a hot topic in 2021. In July, the All Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing published a long awaited report. That report concluded that the general public was at risk due to an absence of legal framework. The government reacted in October to introduce regulation aimed at protecting the increasing number of young people in the UK seeking aesthetic treatments. It was made a criminal offence to administer botulinum toxin (Botox) or dermal filler for cosmetic reasons in anyone under the age of 18 in England.

Currently though, there remains a lack of regulation in the industry beyond this. Still pretty much anyone could administer dermal fillers with little to no training and there is little protection for anyone over the age of 18.

Invasive cosmetic surgery also continues to be on the rise, and the pandemic has done nothing to stop it. Save Face reported a 40% increase in its website traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic. At Irwin Mitchell we continue to see enquiries from clients who have had surgery in the UK or abroad since March 2020. Those patients have sometimes been faced with clinic closures and lockdowns in the midst of their suffering when things have gone wrong. There are numerous highly commended and responsible surgeons within the UK who put the safety of their patients first, but there also appears to be opportunity for surgeons to operate unscrupulously.

The Safety in Beauty campaign has recognised the growing trends towards cosmetic treatments and the vulnerabilities faced by the public. The organisation launched in October 2013 striving to improve safety standards in cosmetic practice across the UK. Not only have they campaigned and lobbied for the legal framework to be strengthened, but they also provide access to the public for legal, emotional and physical support.  The campaign has received thousands of approaches since its inception. Its team of volunteers assist the public in reporting a concern and in seeking remedial treatments. They also have a directory of like-minded professionals and businesses that have passed their quality criteria check-list.

Irwin Mitchell is proud to continue to support the Safety in Beauty Campaign, as we have done for the last 7 years. It is heart breaking for patients when things avoidably go wrong during their treatments. We share the ethos of the Safety in Beauty Campaign to strive to eliminate unsafe practice. Patients should be able to rest assured that they are in good hands during their treatment and that laws and regulations are in place to protect them. Irwin Mitchell recently supported and attended the 7th annual Safety in Beauty Awards, founded in 2014 to recognise those in pursuit of the highest standards of safety in the beauty industry.

So far, we do not think the law surrounding cosmetic treatments goes far enough to protect patients. However we hope that the momentum seen in 2021 to improving safe practices in the UK continues.

Earlier this year Kathryn wrote about the All Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (APPG) report which was published following a year-long enquiry into Botox, fillers and similar non-surgical cosmetic treatments. Her article can be viewed here.