Ensuring Safety in Non-Surgical Procedures: A Closer Look at UK Regulations


In the quest for a timeless appearance and rejuvenation, millions of individuals in the UK are turning to non-surgical procedures as an alternative to invasive surgeries. These procedures, which encompass a wide range of treatments such as dermal fillers, Botox® injections, and laser therapy, offer youthful transformations with minimal downtime. However, the ever-growing popularity of non-surgical cosmetic treatments has sparked concerns about safety and regulation.

The Rise of Non-Surgical Procedures in the UK

The allure of non-surgical cosmetic treatments lies in their minimally invasive nature, often requiring no incisions, anaesthesia, or lengthy recovery periods. As a result, they have become increasingly popular in the UK, attracting individuals seeking to enhance their appearance with less risk and downtime compared to surgical alternatives. While these treatments offer numerous benefits, including natural-looking results and affordability, concerns have emerged about the need for robust safety measures to protect patients.

Current Safety Measures in Non-Surgical Procedures

In the UK, the safety of non-surgical procedures primarily falls under the oversight of various regulatory bodies and organisations. These safety measures encompass several key components:

Regulated Practitioners: To perform non-surgical procedures, practitioners must be qualified and registered with professional bodies such as the General Medical Council (GMC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), or the General Dental Council (GDC). These regulatory bodies set standards for education, training, and ethical conduct.

Informed Consent: Practitioners are required to obtain informed consent from patients, ensuring they understand the procedure, its potential risks, and the expected outcomes. This process helps patients make informed decisions about their treatment.

Product Safety: The use of approved and regulated products is a crucial safety measure. Dermal fillers and other substances must comply with strict quality and safety standards set by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Clinical Environment: Treatments should take place in a clean, safe, and hygienic clinical environment to minimise the risk of infection and complications. Some clinics voluntarily register with the CQC, which assesses whether healthcare providers meet essential safety and quality standards.  A number of treatments such as facial thread lifts and for hyperhidrosis must only be performed within a CQC registered clinic.

Adverse Event Reporting: Practitioners are obligated to report any adverse events or complications related to non-surgical procedures to the MHRA. This reporting system helps monitor the safety of these treatments.

Despite these existing safety measures, concerns have arisen regarding the lack of specific regulations tailored to non-surgical procedures, the varying qualifications of practitioners, and the absence of standardised training requirements.

The second consultation is open, 2nd September 2023 until 28th October 2023. Have your say.

The UK Government’s Consultation on Non-Surgical Procedures

In recognition of the need for enhanced safety measures, the UK government has taken a significant step towards addressing these concerns. In October 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care launched its first public consultation inviting both the public and practitioners to share their views and experiences regarding non-surgical cosmetic treatments. This consultation aims to:

Assess Current Regulations: The consultation seeks to understand the effectiveness of existing regulations governing non-surgical procedures and identify any gaps or areas requiring improvement.

Standardise Training and Qualifications: It aims to explore the potential for standardised training and qualifications for practitioners to ensure a consistent level of expertise and competence.

Enhance Product Safety: The consultation explores ways to strengthen product safety measures, including product registration, labelling, and reporting of adverse events.

Improving Informed Consent: Ensuring that patients have access to clear and comprehensive information about the risks and benefits of treatments is a key focus. The consultation aims to explore ways to enhance the informed consent process.

Protection for Vulnerable Individuals: Vulnerable individuals, such as those with mental health issues or body dysmorphic disorders, require special consideration. The consultation seeks input on measures to protect such individuals.

The Public Response

The public consultation has sparked a significant response from various stakeholders. Patients, practitioners, professional organisations, and advocacy groups have all voiced their opinions and concerns.

Patient Advocacy: Advocacy groups have called for stricter regulations and greater transparency in the industry to protect patients from potential harm. They emphasise the importance of informed consent and access to reliable information.

Practitioner Perspectives: Practitioners have expressed a desire for standardised training and qualifications to ensure a higher standard of care across the industry. Many practitioners believe that regulation can help distinguish qualified professionals from untrained providers.

Professional Organisations: Professional bodies such as the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN), British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and the British Association of Dermatologists have welcomed the consultation and advocated for increased oversight to safeguard patient safety.

Patient Stories: Patients have shared their personal experiences, both positive and negative, highlighting the need for improved regulation and safety measures. These stories underscore the importance of informed decision-making and patient empowerment.

Patient safety is paramount therefore regulations are essential.

The Way Forward to Ensuring Safety in Non-Surgical Procedures

As the consultation period continues after the second, it is evident that the discussion surrounding non-surgical procedures in the UK is gaining momentum. While the outcome remains uncertain, the government is committed to addressing the current lack of regulations and improving safety measures.

The UK government’s second consultation has been open since September 2023.  It’s focus on non-surgical procedures represents a significant step towards enhancing safety measures in the cosmetic industry. The voices of the public, practitioners, and advocacy groups will play a crucial role in shaping the future of regulations governing non-surgical cosmetic treatments, ultimately ensuring the safety and well-being of patients across the UK.

You can have your say here until the 28th October 2023 after which the consultation will be closed for review;