By Ann Gow, Deputy Chief Executive of Healthcare Improvement Scotland

AT a time when cosmetic procedures have become more popular than ever, it’s understandable that people have concerns about the care they may receive.

As highlighted in Dr Judy Todd’s recent article in The Herald (“Keeping the cowboys out of cosmetic treatments”, October 22), cosmetic procedures are a growing market. While there are many reputable practitioners operating across Scotland, like any sector or industry, there are some that do not maintain the highest of standards.

Private clinics in Scotland that are run by healthcare professionals have been required by law to register their service with Healthcare Improvement Scotland since April 2017. Private clinics are services that are not part of a hospital and from which a medical practitioner, dental practitioner, registered nurse, registered midwife or dental care professional provides a service which is not part of the NHS. They provide treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections, weight loss therapy, as well as private dentistry and GP services.

Over two years on, there are now more than 450 services on Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s online list of services who are either fully registered or completing registration. More than 100 of these are in Glasgow, 81 in Lothian and 58 in Grampian. In fact, registered clinics are operating right across the country.

Those considering cosmetic interventions now have the option to go to a clinic that is registered, and that demonstrates a commitment to safety and improvement. Although registration is not a guarantee of quality of service, it is crucial that we can provide assurances that registered clinics carry out procedures in a safe and regulated environment.

Regulation of private clinics has put Scotland ahead of the game compared to other countries when it comes to regulation of services providing cosmetic procedures, but there is still work to be done. Beauticians and beauty therapists providing cosmetic treatments are not required to register. The Scottish Government is currently looking at ways to extend regulation which will bring cosmetic procedures provided by non-healthcare professionals into an appropriate regulatory framework.

The registration process for private clinics is stringent and there are strict requirements which services must meet in order to complete the process. When a service is registered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland, it is also then subject to regulation of the service and this includes regular inspection. All inspection reports are published on our website. This brings clear benefits for both services and their patients, as they able to demonstrate to their patients and the public that they operate to the highest standards and are committed to continual improvement. For patients, it means being able to make informed choices about which clinic to use. Patients who are unhappy with the services they have received from a registered private clinic can make a complaint to us, and we can take enforcement action if services do not comply with our legislation.

We are delighted with the number of private clinics that have registered across Scotland so far, as it shows real commitment to continuing improvement in the sector, helps increase safety and empowers people to make informed decisions about their care. So if you are considering a cosmetic intervention, our advice is to consult the list of regulated clinics on our website ( The list will provide you with assurance that the service aspires to the highest standards, is independently regulated, and that those who use their services have somewhere to go if they are unhappy with the treatment they’ve received.