How do you pick a clinic you can trust?

Heather Stephen

You go to a clinic for a cosmetic treatment but how do you know if the person you’re seeing is qualified to put your face in their hands?  

Although thousands of people are happy with their cosmetic procedure there are still enough horror stories about ‘trout pout’ and botched surgery to make you think twice before opting for treatment.

The trouble is many of us don’t realise that many clinics are failing to employ practitioners with the correct training to carry out procedures like chemical peels, fillers, laser treatment and intense pulsed light.  And there is no one body responsible for ensuring standards throughout the sector.

In Scotland clinics run by doctors and nurses have to be registered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and are inspected to make sure they meet standards but no other UK clinics come under this scrutiny and those run by beauty therapists don’t come under any regulation at all.

In 2013 NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh blasted clinics who offered time-limited deals, reduced prices and treatment as prizes as ‘socially irresponsible’ and he said these dubious incentives should be banned by professional codes of practice.iii

If it sounds too good to be true…

This recommendation was reinforced by guidance from the General Medical Council and the Royal College of Surgeons this year  but there is still a long way to go in terms of protecting the public against rogue operators.

‘It’s an absolute minefield out there,’ says Dr Shirin Lakhani, an advanced aesthetic doctor from Elite Aesthetics in Greenhithe, Kent. ‘Anyone can set up a clinic offering cosmetic treatments and they don’t even need to be qualified.

‘For example, the UK is the only country where beauty therapists are allowed to inject filler. Incorrectly administered filler has led to 100 cases of blindness worldwide and can cause necrosis – the permanent death of body tissue – with permanent scarring,’ she says.

Of course, there are excellent operators out there but when results vary so much from clinic to clinic what can you do to give yourself the best chance of treatment which is safe and offers beautiful results?

Our 5 top treatment tips:

  • Choose a doctor or nurse. ‘People should always go to a medical professional for cosmetic treatment as beauticians are not able to deal with any complications,’ advises Dr Lakhani.
  • Make sure your practitioner is registered with the SaveFace register which holds a list of insured, properly qualified doctors who undertake regular training and who operate within a clean, safe environment.
  • Check they’ve had plenty of practice. ‘When you consider you don’t need a background in medicine or nursing and only need to go on a half day course to give Botox it is terrifying,’ says Dr Tatiana Lapa, medical aesthetician at the Studio Clinic, London. ‘Practitioners should have at least six months experience in a procedure and preferably more so always ask about experience.’
  • Never go to clinics offering ‘two for one’ deals. The General Medical Council urges doctors not to offer offers or treatment as prizes to avoid patients making rash decisions. ‘Clients can be very driven by price but it is not the safest way to choose treatment,’ says Dr Lakhani.
  • Check your practitioner is a member of a professional association like the British Association of Dermatologists or the British College of Aesthetic Medicine.

Consultant plastic surgeon and former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons Douglas McGeorge says ‘The cosmetic sector is an arena where regulation has historically been lax and many practitioners can engage in procedures they are not trained or even qualified to perform.

‘At the BAAPS we have always stressed people should not to be swayed by flashy adverts or offers and to ‘choose a surgeon, not a clinic’. Members of our organisation must undergo strict criteria to join, such as holding a number of substantive consultant posts, and most are NHS-trained plastic surgeons specifically trained in aesthetic or cosmetic practice.’

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