An independent review commissioned by the government has called for much tighter regulation of cosmetic procedures such as dermal fillers and Botox, to help protect patients and save the NHS a bit of cash at the same time.

The review - spurred by the PIP breast implants scandal and led by Sir Bruce Keogh - found that people undergoing cosmetic surgery have "no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush".

Dermal fillers are a particular cause for concern, his report notes, as there are no requirements for knowledge, training or previous experience to operate as a practitioner, nor are there sufficient checks on product quality. 

This, coupled with the "explosive growth" in the sector, means that "dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen", according to Sir Bruce.

"We have heard terrible reports about people who have trusted a cosmetic practitioner to help them but, when things have gone wrong, they have been left high and dry with no help. These people have not had the safety net that those using the NHS have. This needs to change," he stressed.

While little data exists on the costs to the NHS of dealing with the fallout of cosmetic surgery gone wrong in the private sector, information from the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London showed that, over a 15 month period, 12 patients attended A&E needing treatment for related complications, resulting in 34 outpatient visits and 66 inpatient nights at a total cost of £43,000. 

Areas for change

The Review Committee has identified three areas in which it believes change is needed, the first centring on the provision of high quality care with safe products, skilled practitioners and responsible providers, including new legislation to classify fillers as a prescription-only medical device and formal qualifications for anyone injecting them or Botox.

In addition, an informed and empowered public is necessary to help ensure people get accurate advice and protect the vulnerable, and there must be accessible redress and resolution when things go wrong.

Commenting on the findings, health minister Dan Poulter said "it is clear that it is time for the government to step in to ensure the public are properly protected".

"The independent panel has made some far-reaching recommendations, the principles of which I agree with entirely," he noted, adding that the Department of Health will now "consider the report carefully and respond in detail in the summer".