New GMC guidelines for cosmetic surgery in the UK

The General Medical Council is implementing strict guidelines for UK doctors who undertake cosmetic surgery from June 2016. The new guidelines introduce proper safeguards on patient care.

The General Medical Council, the body that regulates all practising doctors in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland, is implementing strict guidelines for medically qualified professionals who undertake cosmetic surgery from June 2016.

Cosmetic surgery is a difficult ethical area. While some medical professionals dislike the concept, the GMC accepts that it is increasingly popular but with problems, so an ethical framework’ for cosmetic surgery is now essential.

Cosmetic surgery is a thriving commercial industry, so needs proper safeguards on patient care. GMC rules will apply to UK doctors- wherever they work.

The new guidelines include:

  • The treating doctor should seek the patient’s consent personally
  • The patient must be given enough time and information before making a decision
  • The patient’s psychological needs must be considered
  • Information about after-care, continuity of care and any medications must be provided
  • Doctors must take particular care regarding requests for children and young people
  • No aggressive marketing can take place

The last one makes it clear that there must be no promotional offers, competitions with free surgery, trivialising risks or making exaggerated claims about the results.

Consumers are often driven to make choices based on price rather than quality, so these guidelines are welcome.

Unfortunately the new rules only apply to medical practitioners who fall under the governance of the GMC. There are many companies that offer cosmetic surgery undertaken by people who are not medically qualified. A doctor who falls short of these guidelines could be struck off the register; but the GMC is powerless to take action against a non-medically qualified individual such as an assistant at a clinic.