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Key cosmetic surgery industry failings highlighted
Government research highlighting fundamental weaknesses in the way cosmetic surgery is carried out in the UK comes as no surprise to a clinical negligence specialist.
The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death - a government-funded safety watchdog - found that basic standards for patient care and assessment were sorely lacking.
Lindsay Holt, an expert in medico-legal cases at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "Cosmetic surgery is a multi-million pound industry. This research shows that accepted standards of patient care and assessment from many of the centres offering these services are falling woefully short."
Researchers found that out of all the private cosmetic surgery providers they examined - including NHS hospitals with private wings - only a third of assessed sites carried out psychological evaluation of their patients and performed a two-stage consent process designed to allow patients time to reflect on their forthcoming treatment.
"Over 100,000 cosmetic operations are carried out in the UK each year," said Lindsay. "It is absolutely vital that each and every one of these patients are psychologically assessed and given sufficient time to ensure they are happy with their decision prior to surgery. The fact that only a third of the cosmetic surgery providers examined, ensure surgery is the right option for their clients is a reflection of the commercial outlook of many organisations, whose priorities may not always be looking after their patients' best interests."
Over half of the cosmetic surgery operating theatres examined were not properly equipped, monitoring before-and-after treatment was found to be completely inadequate and a fifth of assessed sites had no emergency readmission policy in place.
The report's main criticism however was directed at the alarming inexperience of surgeons conducting cosmetic operations, particularly with regard to some doctors who 'have-a-go' at procedures without having the relevant or sufficient training.
It is generally accepted that sites offering cosmetic surgery should be carrying out a minimum of 20 operations a year to give practitioners the experience they need. Researchers however found that only one in ten sites managed this for ear-pinning, a fifth supplied the relevant training for breast reductions and only a quarter for facelifts.
In October, a new system is being introduced in England which will enable the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to fine and prosecute the worst offenders.
"It is unacceptable that some cosmetic surgery providers are failing in their duty to provide even the most basic standards of patient care," said Lindsay. "Failure to evaluate and in particular, monitor patients after their surgery is a recipe for disaster, inevitably putting patients' lives at risk. The failure to provide basic surgical expertise and use private facilities as a training ground has caused pain and distress to thousands of plastic surgery patients over the years."
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