The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has called on surgeons and hospitals to prepare for changes that will radically drive up standards of care in cosmetic surgery.

From next spring (2016), surgeons will be able to apply for ‘certification’ to show they are qualified and competent to perform specific procedures. It will enable surgeons working in the private sector to demonstrate they have the appropriate standards of training and experience to perform cosmetic surgical procedures – such as breast enlargements or tummy tucks.

Currently, cosmetic surgery is not a defined surgical speciality and there are no common standards available to surgeons who perform it. The law allows any doctor – surgeon or otherwise – to perform cosmetic surgery.

The new system of certification will address this and allow the public and employers to distinguish highly qualified, experienced individuals, from those who are working without adequate insurance or the necessary specialist training.

The RCS is today setting out what surgeons need to do to apply for certification. Mr Steve Cannon, Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee, (CSIC) which was set up to oversee the changes, said:

“We are calling on all surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery to prepare for these very important changes. This new system of certification will raise standards of care for patients and enhance the reputation of the profession as a whole.

“From spring next year, surgeons will be able to apply for certification and demonstrate their skills and expertise.

“It will make cosmetic surgery safer for patients, who for the first time, will be able to identify a highly qualified, experienced surgeon to perform a procedure through a register of surgeons. It will also make it simpler for hospitals to check the qualifications, experience and training of the doctors who work there. All eligible surgeons should apply for certification.”

Surgeons will be able to obtain certification in one or more groups of closely related procedures as long as they are on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) specialist register in a specialty that demonstrates training and experience in the chosen area of practice, and they can demonstrate they meet certification requirements.

This will include providing evidence they have:

  • performed a minimum number of surgical procedures in the area of certification and of their outcomes;
  • indemnity insurance which covers practice in the UK;
  • undergone successful revalidation including at least one appraisal that has taken into account their cosmetic practice;
  • attended an accredited masterclass on professional skills in cosmetic surgery;
  • confirmation of knowledge and adherence to relevant General Medical Council’s and Royal College of Surgeons’ guidance.

These changes have been introduced following the PIP breast implant scandal, which prompted the Government to ask Professor Sir Bruce Keogh to undertake a review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions. The review was published in April 2013.

It asked the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) to establish a Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC) to set standards for practice and training, establish a system of certification for surgeons to demonstrate whether they meet these standards, support the accessibility of outcome data, and help patients to make informed decisions about their surgery. The new system of certification is in direct response to this and is supported by all the relevant surgical speciality associations.

Individuals will be able to apply by submitting evidence of their work through a secure website. Evaluators will review the application and decide whether or not to award certification.