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Safeguarding the future of cosmetic surgery

13 Jul 2017

Mr Gary Ross, Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester

As someone who has undergone a significant amount of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery myself, I know just how important it is for a patient to have the utmost trust in the medical practitioner helping them.

In an industry becoming increasingly trivialised in the mainstream media and tarnished by the actions of those who place profit above patient wellbeing, safeguards and checks to protect the vulnerable have never been more important.

Which is why the new certification system launched by The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) - brought in to protect the cosmetic surgery industry and to guide patients in their life-changing choices - could prove to be one of the greatest steps forward yet, for all concerned.

For me personally, it is an honour to be the first surgeon to have certified in cosmetic surgery through the RCS process, and I see this as a significant advance in patient care that will improve the reputation of the profession for years to come.

The certification process itself aims to provide a quality assurance for patients looking to undergo a cosmetic procedure.

Surgeons approved will be listed on the RCS website and acknowledged as highly capable in their defined areas of specialism.

And the key thing here is in arming the patient with the information they need to make the right decision, while channelling the consumer to a surgeon who can manage expectations and advise on the relevant risks and limitations.

All patients deserve to be given the opportunity to discuss the various surgical and non-surgical treatment options and have time to reflect on this information before they proceed or not.

At present, with some surgeons, this isn’t always the case.

And that’s entirely wrong.

In order to certify through the RCS scheme, I have provided evidence of my training, experience, and outcomes. I’ve provided reflection on difficult cases and showed through appraisal, revalidation, and through patient and colleague feedback, that I meet the professional standards that would be expected of a cosmetic surgeon.

I have been impressed at the robustness of the system and feel that every cosmetic surgeon should certify through the RCS - and that this should become mandatory.

The importance of providing care throughout the patient journey, liaising with colleagues and the importance of communication and dissemination of information and education in an open and transparent manner, allows surgeons to reflect, share and learn in order to improve outcomes.

It is clear that all surgeons that attended the Professional Masterclass in Cosmetic Surgery have the belief that cosmetic surgery can be regulated, professional standards raised and patients’ safeguarded form both physical and psychological harm.

Of course, the RCS are not alone in calling for industry change. The Nuffield Council recently highlighted the importance of the ethical aspects of practice and the doctor patient relationship on its report on Bioethics.

They have advised that further reforms in both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic interventions are necessary to protect patients and meet the high standards of care patients deserve.

They’ve also highlighted the need to extend regulation to help safeguard children from both physical and psychological harm and patients interests must be put at the forefront of any individual offering cosmetic treatments.

Meanwhile I also support Andrew Lansley’s cosmetic surgery bill,which will enable the General Medical Council (GMC) to note on its medical register which surgeons have been awarded the RCS’ cosmetic surgery certification.

The Care Quality Commission will take the RCS and GMC standards into account during hospital inspections and when making a judgement about the quality and safety of services being provided.

All of this underlines the value of the RCS certification system and I’d encourage every plastic and cosmetic surgeon to get involved in it to become regulated and certified.

It’s what we all must strive for.

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