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Surgeons and solicitors attacks plans to change rules on cosmetic laser surgery

July 1, 2008

Doctors and lawyers have attacked Government plans to drop the regulation of lasers used by beauty salons for cosmetic treatments

Surgeons say the Department of Health’s proposals, which will allow the unlicenced removal of wrinkles, hair and tattoos, will put patients’ lives at risk.

They claim they would allow anyone without qualifications to start using lasers and other light techniques.

Hundreds of clinics in England use lasers for treating lines and wrinkles, removing hair and eliminating tattoos and birthmarks.

Until now, salons using these techniques had to be registered with the Healthcare Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that they are used safely.

Salons are also required to take professional advice on the precautions needed.

But in a report on easing the burden of regulation, the department said that these rules were “not proportionate to the risk of harm to the patient”.

It proposes to abolish the need to register and allow anyone to use lasers and pulsed lights without advice, regulation or inspection.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has condemned the move, saying that deregulation was being driven not by clinicians but by people who knew nothing about it.

“This suggestion is nonsense,” Douglas McGeorge, a consultant plastic surgeon who is president of the association, said.

“If it is implemented, it will open it up to anybody to get hold of one of these devices and start using it. ”Lasers can damage the eyes, so the premises where they are used have always been inspected.

“Lasers can also cause burns and scarring if improperly used.

Sooner or later patients will suffer as a result of these political moves and the Government will have to take responsibility for its actions.”

Lasers and pulsed light sources are a booming sector of the beauty industry, but some patients have complained that they have been injured by them.

Which?, the Consumers’ Association magazine, has in the past complained that in Scotland, where there has been no requirement to register with the Care Commission, the healthcare regulator, many people have been put at risk.

Frances Blunden, health campaigner for Which?, said last year that she was aware of a number of people who had been badly burnt, scarred or blistered when having laser hair removal.

“This is serious equipment with serious effects if used incorrectly,” she said.“Our view is that these clinics should be regulated.”

Tanveer Jaleel, founder and partner at TJL Solicitors, said the Government’s plans were a backward step for the cosmetic surgery sector.

‘The Government should be looking at boosting regulation in the cosmetic surgery industry, rather than encouraging deregulation,’ he said.

‘We see hundreds of cases of patients physically and mentally scarred by ‘cowboy’ surgeons who get away with poor practise because of the lack of regulation in the industry.

‘In an environment where doctors are asking for tighter regulations it is absurd that politicians should seek to deregulate further.’

However, Ben Bradshaw, the Health Minister, said he was satisfied that the changes were consistent with the ‘risk-based approach to regulation.’

If approved, the changes will be incorporated into the Health Care Regulations 2001 as amendments.

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