Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Ken Stewart has advised that a regulation which allows doctors from abroad to fly in to perform operations and then fly home can leave patients vulnerable if something goes wrong.
It is thought that the weak regulation of cosmetic surgery in the UK has meant that many patients have been left permanently scarred and unable to secure payment of their compensation awards due to being unable to locate the surgeon or the details of their insurers.
Following a recent TV documentary on the subject, the Scottish Government said that it would take further steps to protect patients and would meet with UK Ministers and the Royal College of Surgeons, who have stated that a mandatory register would end fly-in, fly-out surgeons.
In 2013, the Keogh Review found that the regulations of cosmetic surgery were poor and had warned that vulnerable patients were not protected considering this. In response to the review, the Royal College of Surgeons developed a cosmetic surgery certification , which states there was an urgent need for the robust regulation of cosmetic surgery. Through the Cosmetic Surgery Inter-Specialty Committee (SCIC) they have developed a certification scheme, which recognises surgeons who have all the appropriate training that is required, including qualifications and experience, to perform the cosmetic surgery procedures that they provide. You can find a certified surgeon on the Royal College of Surgeon's website and this is open to both patients who wish to undergo surgery and hospitals. There is a lengthy process to go through to be certified and to gain certification to be added to this public list. This comprises of two initial steps, which include; attending on RCS Accredited Professional Behaviours Masterclass, and the completion of an online application. One of the certification requirements is that the cosmetic surgeon must also be on the General medical Council's (GMC) Specialist Register in their chosen specialty that demonstrates the training and expertise they have in their chosen area. However, it must be noted that currently, the register is only voluntary. Due to this, only around 30 surgeons are signed up.
One of the issues with the high street cosmetic surgery providers is that they insist that liability lies solely with the surgeons and many state within their terms and conditions that no liability rests with them. This is where the difficulties then lie when patients try to claim for the surgery that has either gone wrong or led to complications meaning that they have had to undergo further revision surgeries which are often funded by the NHS. In many cases, when a patient wishes to claim, this must be directed to the surgeon in question or their insurers. Difficulties can then lie in locating the surgeon, as they tend to fly in and out to many different hospitals, and therefore it can be extremely difficult to track them down. Likewise, finding the details of their insurer can also be difficult, especially if they will not be disclosed by the cosmetic surgery provider that the patient used.
One of the ways to regulate this would be for stricter conditions to be placed on surgeons who are coming into the UK to provide surgeries. The Scottish Government is being called upon to bring in stricter conditions to stop the fly-in, fly-out surgery system that is ongoing within the UK Independent Health Care Sector. Stricter regulations would need to be put into place to protect patients against the risk when surgeries go wrong. Ensuring it is mandatory for surgeons to be certified is one way that it could effectively protect patients,. meaning that they are not left at risk of botched surgeries or complications following surgery that then requires multiple revision surgeries which leave patients with scars and other psychological injuries due to what has gone wrong.