Should Europe regulate cosmetic surgery tourism

The recent PIP implants controversy has raised more concerns about regulation, operation and standards within the cosmetic surgery industry. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper has recently highlighted private cosmetic clinics that employ surgeons to carry out breast enlargements, nose jobs and tummy tucks who do not hold qualifications as plastic surgeons within the NHS

The recent PIP implants controversy has raised more concerns about regulation, operation and standards within the cosmetic surgery industry. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper has recently highlighted private cosmetic clinics that employ surgeons to carry out breast enlargements, nose jobs and tummy tucks who do not hold qualifications as plastic surgeons within the NHS (Private cosmetic clinics employing ‘unqualified’ surgeons). There are also concerns about the quality standards and practices of cosmetic surgery clinics both within the UK and across Europe. A new European Standard on Aesthetic Surgery Services represents a significant move to address these shortcomings.

Regulating the cosmetic surgeons

In general, cosmetic and plastic surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery at one of the private hospitals owned by UK groups such as Nuffield, BMI and Spire hospitals will hold an NHS consultant position, usually in Plastic Surgery or ENT Surgery – NHS consultants who do some private cosmetic surgery work. In contrast, many of the surgeons working for the cosmetic surgery chains such as Transform, Harley Medical Group and the Hospital Group are not NHS consultants.
The British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has raised concerns about the influx of cosmetic surgeons into the UK from Europe. The BAAPS President told the Guardian, “We very often get applicants from Europe. Although they automatically get on the specialist register, the quality of training they have had is in no way equivalent to a trainee in the UK and they are often not deemed suitable for an NHS post”.

According to Transform, “Qualifications obtained in other parts of Europe are at least the equal to those obtained in the UK” and said it was “completely untrue and highly misinformed” to suggest otherwise.
In June 2011, the European Commission published a Green Paper, “Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive”. This Directive, adopted in 2005, sets the rules for mutual recognition of professional qualifications between Member States. Consultation on this paper has now closed.

Regulating the cosmetic clinics…. The European Standard on Aesthetic Surgery Services

Many businesses, clinics and doctors working in the cosmetic surgery sector across Europe are still blissfully unaware of what’s coming their way – a European Standard on Aesthetic Surgery Services.
CEN (the European Committee for Standardization) is currently running a public consultation on the draft of this standard. The aim of the consultation process is to develop a European best practice standard for surgeons, doctors and nurses in private healthcare facilities that offer cosmetic procedures. As may be seen from its title, the standard is primarily concerned with “services”, rather than with products or devices (such as breast implants).
When the final standard is released in 2013, it will result in:

  • Improvement in aesthetic surgery services through enhancing patient safety and avoiding the risk of complications and patient criticism about poor services;
  • Adoption of consistently high standards for aesthetic surgery providers across Europe;
  • Enhancement of patient satisfaction and reduced criticism of poor service delivery.

In terms of scope, both surgical and non-surgical medical services are included. It provides recommendations for procedures for clinical treatment, including the ethical framework and general principles according to which clinical services are provided by all aesthetic practitioners. Dentistry procedures are excluded. Cosmetic non-medical procedures (e.g. tattoos, piercing) provided by non-doctors (e.g. beauticians, masseurs, hairdressers) in non-medical facilities (such as spas, salons) are excluded from the scope of the European Standard.

Find out about the new Standard

A copy of the draft European Standard 16372 is available from the national standardisation bodies of each EU state and the EFTA member states, Croatia and Turkey. You are able to submit comments on the draft standard to your national standards body.

  • UK clinics:You can view and comment on the new standard on the British Standards Institute web site. Search on either: “Aesthetics surgery services”, or the draft standard number: “prEN 16372”. This will take you through to a “Draft details” option. You will then be asked to register with the site. After that you can make comments on a clause by clause basis.
  • Non-UK clinics:Other member countries within CEN are also running public consultations, and for details of how to take part, you should contact your NSB (National Standardisation Body).

So, if you are involved in cosmetic surgery in Europe, now’s the time to “have your say” on the new aesthetic surgery standard.

 

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As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.