According to the latest figures from the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP), the number of complaints related to aesthetics procedures in the UK shot up by 26% in 2021 compared to the previous year. So what are the reasons behind this?
The aesthetics industry in the UK is growing at a pace. It’s now reportedly worth nearly £4billion, with a projected annual growth of 8.2%. That’s big business for sure, but with lack of regulation this is also a significant cause for concern. The increase in complaints raised by the JCCP highlights the need for better oversight in the UK, as many of the issues related to treatments that have gone wrong, causing physical harm and emotional distress.
It’s shocking to think that in this country anyone can set themselves us as an aesthetic business and administer Fillers or Botox without having any formal training or qualifications. Even more shocking when you consider a survey conducted by Save Face that revealed 83% of those seeking non-surgical treatments did not know if their practitioner was qualified or not.
Furthermore, there is now a proliferation of cheap, low-quality injectable products sourced from outside the UK and therefore not subject to the same rigorous testing and quality control. There is also a lack of guidance around advertising, which has led to misleading claims and unrealistic expectations resulting in disappointment and dissatisfaction. No surprise then that these raise serious issues regarding safety, efficacy and a risk to public health, particularly as many procedures can have serious side effects if not administered correctly.
It’s true that the rise in complaints runs parallel to the increasing popularity of non-surgical procedures, but equally this means a growing number of unlicensed businesses are offering serious procedures at a much lower cost than reputable clinics. It's important to remember, whatever the price tag, complications can be serious, ranging from infections and scarring right through to tissue necrosis and even blindness.
There is good news, however, as efforts have been made to increase regulation over the past decade. In 2013, the Government introduced a voluntary code of practice, which included guidelines on the training and qualifications required (but note the word "voluntary"). In 2016, the Keogh Review recommended that the industry be regulated in a similar way to other medical procedures, and measures to improve patient safety were announced. These included mandatory training and qualifications, as well as a register of accredited practitioners and clinics. The Government has also proposed that certain treatments, such as dermal fillers, be classified as prescription-only medicines and only be administered by medical professionals.
Yes despite these, many unscrupulous practitioners continue to operate. The rise in complaints suggests that more needs to be done to protect patients from potential harm and unrealistic expectations. The industry urgently needs to be subjected to stricter guidelines and action be taken to ensure the highest standards of safety and quality are maintained. Unsurprisingly, there has been resistance from some quarters – those who feel it will be hard to oversee or that it will stifle innovation – but it is something I welcome with open arms.