Cosmetic surgeons will be named and shamed for poor practice for the first time as part of a Government crackdown.
Clinics offering high-risk surgery will be publicly rated online, after fears that thousands of botched operations are going unreported because the industry is badly regulated.
A survey for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) revealed that 35% of patients who want cosmetic surgery are not suitable candidates, fuelling concern that they may be being taken advantage of by some clinics. Yet just six doctors were struck off in the last two years because of substandard performance.
A number of high-profile scandals have not stopped thousands of people opting for treatments, and industry experts have warned ministers to tighten up regulation to protect people from unscrupulous practitioners.
The clinics will now be given a rating of “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” or “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission and the results will be published online.
The changes mean that, for example, women who want breast implants can find out the quality of care offered by the clinic they have chosen, before they pay thousands of pounds to go under the knife. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the changes will “end the lottery of poor practice”.
Hundreds of laser eye clinics will also be scored for their quality amid concerns that the industry is not checked enough for malpractice and poor standards.
Providers of laser eye surgery have to be registered with the CQC and the General Medical Council, but there are concerns about promotional offers used by some to tempt customers into having surgery.
Often patients do not meet their doctor before treatment and although the Royal College of Ophthalmologists warns that only surgeons with specialist training should conduct eye surgery, there is no regulatory requirement.
More than 50,000 people went under the knife last year for cosmetic procedures, most of whom were women, with breast augmentation the most popular surgery. The industry is worth billions of pounds to the economy annually.
More than 100 clinics across Britain offer high-risk procedures including bottom lifts, liposuction and breast surgery, but until now, patients have been unable to find out from officials the quality of the service they provide.
However, procedures such as dermal filler injections, which have surged in popularity in recent years and have prompted a number of health scares, remain unregulated. Mr Hunt said: “Anyone who chooses to have a cosmetic procedure should have high quality and safe care – and that’s why we have a tough regulator in place to help people make an informed decision.
"Our proposals to extend the CQC’s powers to rate more providers are an important step forward in improving standards and will help to end the lottery of poor practice in parts of the cosmetic industry.”
The decision follows a critical report carried out for the Government in 2013 by Sir Bruce Keogh, in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal that saw hundreds of thousands of women affected after it emerged the implants contained industrial-grade silicone instead of medically safe material. The implants were also prone to rupture, allowing the gel to leak into the body causing health complaints.
The General Medical Council recently published strict new guidelines for cosmetic surgeons banning them from offering two-for-one promotions on cosmetic surgery, offering surgery as a prize and implementing a two-week cooling off period. But there remain concerns about the way the industry is regulated as any practising doctor can list themselves as a cosmetic surgery expert without additional training.
Douglas McGeorge, former president of the BAAPS, welcomed the changes, but said: “It is important to stress that the CQC regulates facilities – that is clinics – rather than clinicians … so we still call for the public to remain extremely vigilant of; and query; their surgeon’s experience and accreditations.”
Under the new rules abortion services will be rated for the first time. Alcohol abuse clinics and ambulance services also fall under the measures.