This Life: Women pressured into cosmetic surgery

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The Independent Online
Patients paying for cosmetic surgery have encountered additional strain - hard-selling clinics. The Consumers' Association worries that commercial interests are being put before safety. Glenda Cooper, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, on an industry 65,000 people succumb to every year. Some private clinics are using high-pressure selling techniques to persuade patients to have cosmetic surgery, the Consumers' Association claimed today.

Undercover researchers had their initial consultation with sales people rather than medically qualified staff with some "intent on skipping over the details of the operation", the association's magazine Health Which? reports. At present some 65,000 people have cosmetic surgery every year, often driven by years of low-esteem rather than vanity. Under the present law anyone can set up a private cosmetic surgery clinic, call themselves a consultant and even operate as long as they do not pretend to be a doctor.

The magazine sent two actresses to seven clinics to inquire about breast reduction and liposuction procedures. Initial consultations in only three out of seven clinics were with a surgeon. Others gave misleading information and played down the risks.

Two of the clinics were in Harley Street, London. In the West One clinic the "consultant" at the initial consultation had no medical training. Which?'s expert surgeon criticised the advice given - the consultant had described the risks of liposuction as painful but that on a scale of 1- to-10 of dangerousness "it's about one".

Both actresses were told they had to make a decision and pay a returnable deposit for surgery before they could see a surgeon. In the LST clinic Health Which?'s undercover researcher said the first consultation was taken by someone who called herself a "medical consultant" although she had no medical qualifications.

Asked for their response, a spokesman for the West One clinic said: "We told the reporter that she did need to see a surgeon... The salesman would tell a patient how much things cost... and explain the surgery in very general terms but you would have to come and see a surgeon for which there is a refundable fee."

Ronald Fletcher, managing director of LST said that patients initially saw salespeople because of the sheer "volume of inquiries" but that patients would have to see the clinic doctor and the surgeon before any procedures went ahead.