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Thinking of cosmetic surgery? Here’s the Medical Council’s advice

The Medical Council said it has been concerned about private clinics operating unregulated – which is set to change when a draft bill passes.

FILE Doctors perform an abdominoplasty surgery
FILE Doctors perform an abdominoplasty surgery
Image: AP Photo/Felipe Dana

THE MEDICAL COUNCIL is reaching out to people considering cosmetic surgery to arm them with the information they need before they undergo a procedure.

Professor Kieran Murphy of the Medical Council told TheJournal.ie that the council is there to protect patients by regulating doctors.

He also said that the council had been “really concerned” that there are private clinics operating unregulated because there is no process to regulate them.

Following the PIP implant scandal in 2012, where implants were found to be filled with industrial silicone and posing a human health risk, concerns have risen about cosmetic surgery in Ireland.

To combat this a Licencing of Health Facilities Bill will include cosmetic surgeries in its list of all public and private health care providers which must be licenced. It is currently a draft bill.

Advice

When asked what are what steps patients can take to protect themselves if choosing to undergo elective cosmetic surgery, Prof Murphy said that first they should consult their general practitioner (GP) – because they are the person who best knows their medical history best, and “can give advice if you are suitable candidate”.

“I think sometimes people think, oh I should attend a specialist first off,” said Prof Murphy. But if a GP feels that the patient should undergo the surgery, they can refer them to someone they know is a registered cosmetic surgery practitioner. That provides a further safeguard: referral to someone the GP knows is competent

Irrespective of whether or not a patient is referred, they end up being managed by the GP ultimately anyway. It is very important to have the GP part of the process.

The patient can also ensure their practitioner is competent by going to medicalcouncil.ie and searching for the doctor. There, they can see their registration details – it is a criminal offence for someone to practice medicine who isn’t registered. There are also different types of registration, so people can see what type their cosmetic surgery doctor has.

A further safeguard, said Prof Murphy, is that if the doctor in question has been the subject of a complaint, a condition might have been placed in their registration and this is also visible on the site. This “might make them think twice” about the doctor in question. The aim is to “try to ensure patient as far as possible is fully informed” prior to the surgery.

Patients can also confirm with the practice that the practitioner has indemnity, which is crucial for if they will be carrying out surgery.

Regulation of clinics

The Medical Council has no control over the cosmetic surgery clinics – and recognises that the changes the draft licensing bill will bring in regarding regulation of clinics will be a huge moment for the cosmetic surgery industry in Ireland.

The power of the council only relates to the registration of the individual, not of the practice, said Professor Murphy. “There will be standards set for all providers,” he said of the bill, which will ensure the standards in the premises or healthcare provider are adequate.

The bill will mean that while the council will continue to regulate doctors, regulation (under another body) will begin for clinics. This is something the council welcomes.

“The council welcomes the fact this part of the report is being implemented,” said Prof Murphy. Irrespective of any recession-driven cost cutting that may now be coming into play, “the council’s view is patients are entitled to high standard of care from their doctor”.

Complaints

What happens if you have a complaint about your treatment or doctor?

The council’s view is that first the patient should approach the doctor with the issue. “Our experience with patients who make complaints is very often all patients are looking for is just the opportunity to have the disucsion and hear the explanation given,” said Prof Murphy.

If the complaint can’t be managed locally, the patient can make a complaint to the Medical Council about the issue. More information can be found on the website.

Although there is no single category for cosmetic surgery complaints, the category in which it is located included 121 complaints in 2011.

According to Prof Murphy, the council’s committee investigates all the complaints it receives, and takes them very seriously. Complaints that are referred to fitness to practice committee come into the public domain and can be read on the council’s website.

Read: Harley Medical Group criticised by health committee>

Read: New regulation for cosmetic surgery clinics on the way>

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