DISAPPEARING ACT FOR PIP SCANDAL
The company that carried out the majority of procedures where PIP implants were used has gone into administration and restructured itself, meaning that the women who were fitted with the dangerous implants can no longer hold the company liable.
Harley Medical Group was prominent among companies who permitted non-medical grade silicone to be used in breast surgery. The implants were unfit for purpose and potentially hazardous to health and the realisation that they had been used in thousands of procedures led to the ‘PIP scandal’ breaking in 2011.
The government set up the Keogh Review to look into the wider cosmetic surgery industry and many individual women had begun to pursue companies such as Harley Medical Group through the courts in an attempt to gain redress. However, now this company has been acquired by another holding group, diminishing their legal responsibility. Women in Yorkshire who used the clinic have therefore had to pay £2,000 to £5,500 or in some cases more to have the faulty implants removed at other hospitals.
We believe that this situation further highlights the importance of those who are considering cosmetic surgery only ever using a trustworthy surgeon. Safer Cosmetic Surgery’s members are highly qualified and experienced, being members of BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) and/or BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons), and regard the safety of their clients as paramount. Crucially, they each offer a lifetime of aftercare: which most clinics do not - such is their dedication of providing an outstanding healthcare service.
What the PIP scandal continues to throw into stark relief is the fact that the standard one or two year cosmetic surgery warranties are not always the best available option, even when they are honoured. A lifetime of aftercare, such as that offered by the members of Safer Cosmetic Surgery, is quite literally guaranteed to leave you in the safest possible hands, forever.
THE END OF THE TWO-FOR-ONE DEAL?
The Government is looking at banning two-for-one and similar deals within the cosmetic surgery industry, amongst other measures. It would be a move that has been called for from contributors of evidence for the Keogh review, including the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).
The two-for-one deal is one of the practices carried out by certain quarters of the cosmetic surgery industry that has threatened to bring the wider profession into disrepute. In the UK, as well as the US and elsewhere, there have been cases where people seeking to undergo a cosmetic procedure, such as breast enlargement, have been encouraged, or even pressurized into having a second one as part of a ‘deal’ or ‘bargain’. Sometimes the patient will be told that the supposed special offer is shortly due to expire and be subjected to heavy-handed sales calls and other techniques.
The practitioners who tout their two-for-one deals and special offers are well known for getting creative to sell more surgery. In certain cases, prospective patients are urged to bring along a friend or relative to take advantage of a deal such as two-for-the-price-of-one breast surgery – clearly a case where safety certainly does not lie in numbers. Keogh review committee member Vivienne Parry likened such aggressive sales techniques to those used “for selling double glazing.”
The potential ban must therefore be supported as such unscrupulous behaviour has led to disastrous physical and psychological damage for some of those patients who trusted the wrong advice. The Government may bring into effect a rule whereby photos of scarring and bruising, plus honest details of any other effects will have to be presented to prospective patients.
Safer Cosmetic Surgery wholeheartedly agrees with the move towards banning these cut-price deals and has long argued against these sorts of practices. We will continue to watch the steps the Government takes with interest as we hopefully approach an era of more ethical regulation. All of the surgeons at Safer Cosmetic Surgery are registered with BAAPS and/or BAPRAS and we believe in promoting 'safer' cosmetic surgery.
MEET YOUR SURGEON… OR NOT!
Over the past few years there have been an increasing number of cosmetic surgery procedures, which would once have been carried out by surgeons. People working within the healthcare profession are now undertaking surgical procedures that they may not be qualified to carry out. This marks the rise of the SCP, or Surgical Care Practitioner, a role which is growing more common within the NHS.
An SCP will carry our minor surgery such as carpal tunnel surgery, mole removal or closing wounds, which would normally be carried out by a highly experienced and qualified surgeon. There has been a twofold response to the increased popularity of such a role. Some believe that as specialists in certain minor procedures, they can become experts in that narrow area, lighten the load of the busy surgeon and provide a cost-effective resource for the NHS.
Others, who look at the many years of study and practice it takes to become a doctor and then a surgeon, feel that is just a cheap alternative to staffing a clinic with an actual, qualified surgeon. Those who practice surgery fully appreciate the benefits of even the most minor procedure being carried out by a doctor with a comprehensive understanding of the workings of the human body in its entirety.
However, despite such reservations, the role of the SCP seems set to grow. Anyone who is interested in cosmetic surgery remaining as safe as possible will take note of the changing parameters of those who are entitled to practice surgery. As ever, Safer Cosmetic Surgery will continue to monitor the regulatory approach to SCPs, as all those who carry out procedures must be entirely accountable.
For the part of those considering surgery, it is always vital to ensure that you know your surgeon is fully qualified to carry out your specific procedure. It is very important to check if your surgeon is registered with BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) or BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons). If in doubt, do not proceed – simply choose a Safer Cosmetic Surgeon who will be qualified in every respect, accredited and experienced. Whilst we welcome medical specialism and cost-effective management of healthcare, it remains vital that each and every procedure is carried out by the best qualified and most experienced surgeon available.
BUYER BEWARE: RISE OF THE UPSELL
Cosmetic surgery has been under the spotlight in Parliament and the media this year. The Keogh review has ensured that some of the less desirable practices within the industry, such as advertising to minors or letting unqualified people pose as surgeons, are robustly challenged. We thoroughly support such moves, but it remains the case that the general public must stay informed and continue to educate itself to avoid some of the potential pitfalls.
This applies particularly to the sales pitch aspects of cosmetic surgery. The government can lay down laws, but its eye cannot be everywhere and people who are looking into having cosmetic surgery need to be vigilant. In recent years, an unsavoury practice has become more widespread, mainly in the US, more recently in the UK and China. This is the cosmetic surgery ‘upsell’ whereby companies target people who are thinking about having a procedure. The would-be patients are persuaded, cajoled, pressurized or otherwise influenced into having more surgery than originally intended.
It is a practice which BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) abhors and has spoken out against, as no reputable surgeon would consider offering a patient surgery that is not required or genuinely desired, whatever the circumstances. Nigel Mercer of the European Association of Societies of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (EASAPS), told The Times:
“This is unethical and is happening on a huge scale.”
Remarkable stories of disreputable companies have reached the media. One British woman, then aged 27 and grieving after her mother’s death, decided that she would have breasts implants and some liposuction to make herself feel better, and responded to an ad. Despite having been a nurse, she succumbed to direct and insistent pressure at the first consultation to book immediately, and have more surgery than she had planned, including a breast uplift and liposculpture on her thighs. The surgery turned out to be disastrous. The lady, who is left with deep regrets, made an important point that no surgery should be paid for on day one and there should be a ‘cooling off’ period.
This upsell story is far from uncommon, which is why we have long spoken out against buy-one-get-one-free surgery. Companies who are rushing to take money before considering the health issues should obviously be given a wide berth. But some companies are pushing surgery 'shopping' online, or through email offers and even, outrageously, suggesting that prospective patients encourage a friend to also have the surgery, in a way that purports to be helpful or cost-effective.
What patients must consider is that all surgery needs to be considered soberly and with a full understanding of the possible physical and emotional impact. That means understanding why they need chosen procedures and ensuring that they have not fallen into the trap of thinking that any and all cosmetic surgery is a panacea. When the Keogh review and BAAPS speak out against upselling practices, they are protecting the vulnerable from making such a grave error.
THE ‘BRIDALPLASTY’ EFFECT – SEEKING SURGERY FOR THE BIG DAY
UK cosmetic surgery clinics have recently reported a rise in enquiries from ladies who have their hearts set on looking their best for their wedding day. This is a rapidly expanding demographic of clientele. One London cosmetic surgery clinic reported a 13 per cent year-on-year rise in bookings for pre-nuptial surgical treatments.
Whilst historically a trip to the local beauty salon for a manicure and facial may have been expected, this forms part of a striking modern trend that includes booking for injectables and non-surgical procedures. In fact, it is believed that in 2012, one in ten brides underwent a course of Botox or fillers prior to the big day.
Some brides are going further with permanent, surgical changes. Many are having surgery that includes a rhinoplasty or ‘nose job’ whilst many others opt to have breast surgery, liposuction or a tummy tuck.
Part of the reason for this rise can be attributed to the contemporary interest in celebrity weddings and the accompanying magazine spreads. Many brides-to-be see A-list weddings as setting the bar extremely high and wish to emulate that level of perfection on their own day. In addition, a number of popular reality television programmes have followed women having pre-nuptial surgery, including one called ‘Bridalplasty’ where women compete for a dream wedding and free plastic surgery.
Of course, part of the bridal preparations includes the bride-to-be trying on the most important dress of her life and so she often enters a period of heightened body-consciousness. There are reports of brides who find the ‘perfect’ dress first of all and then have their body altered to fit, perhaps by having liposuction or going up two cup sizes. Even those who take a less extreme approach will be very conscious that on the day, they will be having pictures taken of them that will last a lifetime.
If a bride has been considering cosmetic surgery for some time, then there is no good reason why she should not go ahead in time for the big day. However, there is a danger that some women are pressurizing themselves with unrealistic expectations and making permanent physical changes to themselves for reasons that centre on just one day, albeit an important one. Like any sensible prospective cosmetic surgery patient, a wise bride will make sure that, just as with her impending marriage, she is making decisions based on sound and lasting reasons.
COUPLES' SURGERY ON THE RISE
The rise in cosmetic surgery in recent years has been discussed at length by industry professionals and regulatory bodies, but there is one area of growth that is taking some by surprise. An increasing number of couples are deciding to have procedures carried out at the same time, taking a ‘his and hers’ approach.
For many years, far more women than men have undergone cosmetic procedures. In 2010, men in the US had more than 750,000 cosmetic procedures, which formed just 8% of the total, but that in itself was an increase of over 88% since 1997. Men are becoming more interested in the idea that they can improve their appearance through cosmetic surgery, just like their wives.
This is not just true of the US. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, or BAAPS, male ‘tummy tucks’, or abdominoplasties are up 15%. Moreover, male plastic surgery in the UK increased by 5.6% in 2011. Perhaps unexpectedly, the proportion of males amongst the cosmetic surgery patients who had one of the 4,298 procedures in 2011 was 10%.
This supports the evidence that suggests a trend for husbands to join their wives in undergoing cosmetic enhancement. As couples grow older together, neither wants to feel ‘left behind’ in the beauty stakes. One couple told ABC News that the husband had undergone a chin tuck whilst his wife had liposuction. They regarded it as a positive, bonding experience.
Shared marital experiences are no bad thing, but couples should ensure that one partner is not just ‘going along for the ride’. The decision to have cosmetic surgery should be an independent, unpressurized one, regardless of what one’s other half is planning. Also, it would of course be unwise for both parties to undergo surgery that entails a long recovery period at the same time. However, every reputable surgeon will assess each patient on a case-by-case basis and not by comparison to a spouse, so this interesting new trend need not adversely affect those who wish to explore their options regarding cosmetic procedures.
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