Cosmetic surgery patients were warned today to check the credentials of people offering procedures carefully or risk suffering at the hands of untrained and unregulated providers.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) highlighted problems posed by the wide availability of treatments such as fillers and Botox to deal with wrinkles, lines and to change the shape or look of faces and bodies.
As new techniques were presented to the association's members at its annual scientific meeting in London today, consultant plastic surgeon and outgoing president Nigel Mercer said patients should be armed with information about the surgeon treating them and risks associated with procedures.
"This is not a commodity, it's a surgical procedure," he said.
He also described it as "madness" that half-day and weekend courses were being offered for Botox and injectables.
Mr Mercer cited an advert offering telephone consultation and postage to customers of Botox, which is a prescription product.
Although a safe product, he said, it is a "very potent neurotoxin" which could cause problems if administered incorrectly or in the wrong place, causing temporary paralysis, for example.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Royal College of Physicians, the Bristol-based surgeon said: "Within the UK you could all inject each other - you are not breaking the law.
"That's where we have gone barking mad."
Fillers do not require a prescription and with more than 100 different types on the market - of varying quality - there is an even bigger potential problem, according to BAAPS.
In addition, while the effects of Botox usually wear off after three months, some fillers are permanent.
"There is no question there is an increase in the number of patients having problems with fillers," Mr Mercer said.
Mr Mercer and new BAAPS president Fazel Fatah called for regulation of the industry, particularly over marketing and advertising to ensure surgeons did not sell procedures rather than care.
Individual doctors are regulated by the General Medical Council and their professional bodies while clinics come under the jurisdiction of the Care Quality Commission but the cosmetic surgery industry as a whole remains unregulated.
Mr Mercer said the association had proposed a regulatory body such as Ofcos which could work in a similar way to Ofcom or Ofsted to investigate the commercial aspects of cosmetic surgery but it had fallen on "deaf ears" in the Government.
"It's quite clear the industry can't do that appropriately," he said.
"Please inflict it on us."
Mr Fatah, a consultant plastic surgeon who works for the NHS at City Hospital in Birmingham as well as a private clinic in Edgbaston, said: "The Government didn't want to do anything with regulating cosmetic surgery. It's more or less open field for everybody.
"Potentially, we are dealing with a group of vulnerable patients. People can profit from that.
"We have asked for regulation, we have approached the Government about this issue and we continue doing that."
He said the problem was not only who could inject, but who was equipped to deal with the consequences when treatments went wrong, as well as psychological issues.
"If you want to be operated on for cosmetic reasons, then you should have the right to expect to be operated on by a surgeon who is fully trained, qualified as a specialist and with knowledge of their field," he said.
"This is, at the moment, something we don't have."
The surgeons advised patients to look up clinicians via the GMC and BAAPS, to ask questions about procedures and follow-up care, and to check complication rates.Reuse content