The Mirror is reporting that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is facing increasing pressure to implement a ban on unqualified cosmetic surgeons following a botched eye lift (blepharoplasty) operation.

To the surprise and dismay of the wider public the present system allows any doctor to carry out cosmetic procedures, including nose jobs and facelifts. The Government originally committed to taking action 3 years ago due to the high rate of medical negligence in cosmetic surgery, but regrettably no steps have yet been taken to clamp down on unqualified practitioners.

The House of Commons is now lending its weight to the cause with Kevan Jones, a Labour Member of Parliament, introducing an adjournment debate this week (Thursday October 20th) on the regulation of cosmetic surgery.

The MP will be featuring the case of one of his constituents who underwent an eye-lift that has left her unable to close her eyes. She suffers ongoing vision problems, has difficulty sleeping and is in fear that she may lose her sight altogether. She must now use ‘artificial tear’ eye drops every two hours and tapes her left eye closed at night. Skin grafts may be required to replace the lost tissue in her eyelids.

It is estimated that around 8,500 British people have eye-lifts (known as blepharoplasty operations) every year. In this case too much skin was removed from the lower eyelids.

The operation was carried out by an Italian surgeon who was licensed by the General Medical Council (GMC) despite the fact that he wasn’t insured in the UK.

Mr Jones accuses the Government of dragging its feet on implementing tighter regulation, echoing the point we have made elsewhere on this site about the public’s incorrect assumption that cosmetic surgeons are regulated specialists.

Problems are exacerbated when victims of cosmetic surgery negligence are unable to seek legal redress. This is particularly problematic where the operation has been carried out on what is known in the cosmetic surgery industry as a FIFO basis: fly in - fly out.

In the case of Mr Jones’ North Durham constituent she cannot take legal action against the surgeon who botched her operation because he didn’t have insurance and has subsequently gone bankrupt.

The marketing methods adopted by some cosmetic surgery clinics has been criticised for being too agressive and for trivialising serious medical procedures with gimmicky offers. Cosmetic surgery is big business in the UK. More than 45,000 people in this country choose to go under the knife each year, but the burden of picking up the pieces when it goes wrong falls on the NHS.

Cosmetic surgery has been under the spotlight since the PIPS scandal four years ago. That led to group litigation in which we were (and continue to be) a leading player. The scandal led to a recommendation from the then NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh that all cosmetic surgeons should be certified as fit to practice. However, although legislation was drafted it was never enacted and the Royal College of Surgeons has since been operating on a voluntary basis.

Mr Jones’s aim is to put the issue of cosmetic surgery regulation firmly back on the Government’s agenda to minimise the risk of negligence occurring and to enable people to seek legal redress and compensation when it does go wrong.

We operate a FREE legal helpline for victims of cosmetic surgery negligence. Call us on 0808 139 1592 or email details to us at: info@cosmeticsurgerylaw.co.uk

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