Government admits deregulation of laser treatment will injure more patients

Thousands of people undergoing laser treatment could be left with burns and scars as a result of Government plans to end inspections of clinics, the Department of Health has admitted.

Thousands of people undergoing laser treatment could be left with burns and scars as a result of Government plans to end inspections of clinics, the Department of Health has admitted.

According to a consultation paper, drawn up by officials, as many as 3,400 patients undergoing procedures to remove a mole, tattoo or unwanted hair could be harmed.

Under new proposals, due to come into force in October, beauty salons and parlours will no longer need to apply for licences or be inspected by the Healthcare Commission to use laser technology for cosmetic treatment.

Critics say this will only pave the way for cowboy clinics to get away with operating under poor safety standards which will put more people at risk.
In an appendix to the consultation paper, the Government warns that harmful outcomes may double. It reads: ‘Laser and light treatments… are potentially harmful and they will generate adverse incidents… Deregulation would generate an extra 1,700-3,400 adverse incidents per year.’ There are already an estimated 3,400 each year. ‘It’s shocking that the government is prepared to countenance thousands more people being injured as a result of this deregulation – and it’s an astonishing thing to admit,’ said David Gault, a consultant plastic surgeon who specialises in laser treatments. ‘While some of these "adverse incidents" involve only minor scarring or pigmentation, people’s sight can also be damaged by a powerful laser being shone into their eyes. The psychological harm from these things happening is, in my view, harsher than the physical damage people suffer.”

Critics have argued that the change, designed to lighten the Commission’s workload, will end up costing more money than is saved. The paper said: ‘Based on the estimate of increasing the number of adverse incidents by between 1,700 and 3,400 cases, this represents a yearly extra cost of treating these cases of between £900,000 and £1.8m.’ The costs, it added, were likely to fall on the NHS.

Tanveer Jaleel, founder and senior partner at TJL Solicitors, said: ‘It’s very worrying and nonsensical for the Government to introduce a policy which it knows will ultimately lead to more people being harmed. ‘We should be pushing for more regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry to outlaw these cowboys, instead of creating easier environments for them to operate in.’ A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the planned deregulation of laser treatment clinics was part of wider moves to ‘ensure regulation [of independent healthcare facilities] remains proportionate to the risks’.