Sky News has reported that new guidelines will come into force in April 2016 to protect consumers from aggressive cosmetic surgery advertising techniques. Doctors found to be in serious or persistent breach of these guidelines could be referred to tribunal or suspended from the medical register.
The types of adverts that will be restricted include discounts, time-limited deals, gift vouchers, loyalty cards, prizes and refer-a friend-offers. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has commented that such advertising trivialises serious procedures, is unscrupulous and that, accordingly, guidelines are required.
Sarah Gubbins, an associate at Penningtons Manches LLP specialising in clinical negligence and cosmetic surgery claims, commented: “While we appreciate that surgeons have businesses to run, we must not lose sight of the fact that they are offering medical procedures which have associated risks and complications. Cosmetic surgery is not a standard consumer product available and suitable for everyone. Every potential patient considering cosmetic surgery needs individual consultation and advice to ensure that the specific procedure is right for them.
“As the cosmetic industry has grown and surgeons compete for business, unscrupulous practices have become more common with surgeons offering cut-price deals, time-limited offers and other incentives on marketing boards, leaflets and social media. These all put pressure on potential patients to make a decision quickly, without necessarily considering the reality of undergoing surgery and all the associated risks. Loyalty cards may encourage patients to undergo more surgery than initially intended and prizes and gift cards can convince unlikely clients to undergo unnecessary and sometimes unwanted procedures.
“This is a worrying trend and we welcome these new advertising guidelines as a positive step to deter surgeons from questionable advertising campaigns and putting their commercial interests above the best interests of their patients.”