HUNDREDS of private clinics carrying out cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections, lip fillers and teeth whitening in Scotland are still to register with the industry watchdog just weeks before a new crackdown on the profession comes into effect.
However, the new regulations, which come into force next month, will only apply to clinics run by doctors, dentists and nurses and will not include services offered by non-healthcare professionals such as beauticians and hairdressers.
From April, any healthcare professional who operates a clinic offering non-surgical cosmetic treatments will be committing an offence if they fail to register with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS). The penalties include a fine of up to £5,000 and up to three months’ imprisonment.
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According to HIS just over half of the estimated 500 clinics which fall into this category have applied since the regulation process got underway last year.
There are concerns that far tougher measures are required to improve standards in the industry. Anyone can still carry out non-cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections and dermal fillers - often used to plump up lips - without having any kind of medical training.
The Scottish Government has now set up an group to look at how to regulate non-healthcare professionals in the cosmetic industry, such as hairdressers and beauticians, as the next phase of the regulation process.
Dr Simon Ravichandran, who runs Glasgow-based clinic Clinetix and is a founder member of the Association of Scottish Aesthetic Practitioners (ASAP), pointed out doctors, dentists and nurses who now have to register their clinics are already accountable to their professional governing bodies.
But he added: “Absolutely anyone can buy a dermal filler to inject into people and over the last 10 years we have seen the general public start to accept these as beauty treatments rather than medical treatment.
“They don’t really understand when they go to a beauty therapist, for instance, they are not really fully equipped to do the correct assessment, do the treatment as well as they could and deal with anything that might happen. This is a problem.”
Ravichandran, who yesterday launched The Aesthetic Training Academy in Glasgow, the first purpose-built facility in Scotland to train health professionals in a range of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, said regulation would result in some practitioners leaving the industry.
He said: “The people who are left are actually going to be committed to doing it as a sub-speciality in medicine – that is really what it is.
“The new regulatory process that HIS is introducing is really going to help improve things for us by setting standards.”
Private hospitals offering surgical cosmetic procedures such as breast implants, facelifts and liposuction, have been regulated by HIS for the past six years.
According to figures published by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) earlier this month, the number of cosmetic operations across the UK dropped by 40 per cent in 2016 – the lowest in nearly a decade.
The organisation, which represents consultant plastic surgeons in private practice, said that anecdotally non-surgical treatments such as Botox and dermal fillers were on the increase. But it also warned this sector was rife with “lax regulation and maverick behaviour”.
Ken Stewart, consultant plastic surgeon and member of BAAPS, welcomed the Scottish Government’s moves to start the process of regulation – but said it did not go far enough.
He said: “Registering clinics is one thing – but registering individual practitioners within the clinics is important and strictly regulating what clinics can and can’t do is also important.”
Frances Turner Traill, who has run a skin clinic for 10 years and is a board member for Scotland for the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses, said registering of clinics run by healthcare professionals was a “great step forward”, but there was concern it was simply “regulating the regulated”.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland could not confirm exact figures but said more than half of the estimated 500 independent clinics in Scotland were completing their applications. It said these clinics will be subject to regular inspections, with the first expected to take place within the year.
Claire Sweeney, interim director of quality assurance for HIS, said: “We look forward to welcoming more clinics between now and the end of March.
“The providers of independent clinics that choose not to register with Healthcare Improvement Scotland will be in breach of the legislation and risk being reported to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution.”
She added: “Non-healthcare professionals who provide non-surgical cosmetic treatments are not required to register with Healthcare Improvement Scotland. There are plans to address this and the Scottish Government is currently working on this issue.”
The regulation of independent clinics was introduced as a result of recommendations by the Scottish Cosmetic Interventions Expert Group, which was set up by ministers in 2014 to examine how to regulate the cosmetic industry.
A Scottish Government spokesman said a group had now been set up for phase two, which will investigate the work of non-healthcare professionals.
He added: “This group will report to Scottish Ministers in due course.”
‘I DON'T WANT TO COME ACROSS AS A CRAZY SELF-OBSESSED WOMAN’
Donna Dow, a 55-year-old hairdresser travels from her home in Fife to have treatment at Clinetix in Glasgow. She has Botox injections and dermal fillers around three times a year, and has also had a thread lift – a type of facelift which involves surgical threads being inserted under the skin.
She said: “I was just getting older looking and I didn’t like it. When I look at some people of my age, I think I certainly wouldn’t want to look like that. I am 55 – but nobody would say I look 55.
“There is more pressure to look good nowadays with TV and so many people have had things like this done.”
Dow, who admits to spending a “few hundred pounds” on the treatments each year, said she was pleased with the results of her treatment as she did not look like “plastic”.
She backed the idea of better regulation and said: “I don’t think anybody should have these type of procedures done unless they have researched the clinics and it is a reputable business.
“I will be definitely having it for the foreseeable future – it is like buying an outfit you feel fantastic in. You feel like you can face the world.”
Jennifer McGonigle, from Glasgow, an investment director for a property firm, has had facial chemical peels and Botox at Clinetix. She said she decided to have the procedures when she hit the age of 40.
McGonigle, who is now 43, said: “I go to the gym, I eat healthily, I go to the hairdressers – everything in my life I try and do it properly, so it just seemed like a natural progression to go to the next step.
“The big thing was this stigma about getting Botox. I never want to come across as some kind of crazy self-obsessed woman that only worries about her appearance.
“I am a professional, I work full-time and I don’t spend all my time in a beauticians – but on the other side, I do take pride in my appearance.”
McGonigle said she opted for chemical peels to improve the condition of her skin - which had been left with some scarring from acne as a teenager - and would have Botox if she had a big event coming up.
She said the nature of the procedures meant proper regulation of the industry should be in place.
“[Botox] is a medical procedure – it is a syringe going into your skin,” she said.
“With the chemical peels, when you have it, you actually feel it burning it into your skin – it is burning the top layer of your skin off.
“I would be very careful who I trust with anything like that.”