Meet the campaigners hoping to create a safer future for Scotland

Published 08th Jul 2024 by Michelle Duffield

Scotland has seen an increase in non-healthcare professionals offering medical treatments from non-licensed premises. 

In recent years, there has been a massive increase in non-healthcare professionals offering medical treatments, often using counterfeit medicines and operating from unlicensed premises. 

In addition, two new threats have emerged as a result of new English regulation creating a “border hopping” phenomenon. Firstly, non-healthcare providers from England are travelling to Scotland to take advantage of the void in regulation. Secondly, under 18s in England, where it is now illegal to have a procedure, are travelling to Scotland where it is still legal. The consequences of this public health crisis will be catastrophic if action is not taken immediately.

To that end, representatives from the Scottish Medical Aesthetics Safety Group, British College of Aesthetic Medicine, and British Association of Cosmetic Nurses met with a cross-party group of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 13th July to outline their concerns and call for change. The meeting was a positive and proactive one, with those present expressing their agreement that urgent action is absolutely necessary.

Jenni Minto (SNP) minister for Public Health and Women’s Health agreed that action was urgently required and that a decade had been lost since the government created the Scottish Cosmetic Intervention Expert Group to advise on regulation. Miles Briggs MSP (Con) expressed his concern that the lack of regulation would enable another blood borne disease scandal created by non-healthcare providers using unhygienic premises and sharing treatment consumables. Stuart McMillan MSP (SNP) expressed his concern that the lack of regulation was allowing criminal gangs to exploit the situation by selling unregulated and unsafe products that endangered the public.

Furthermore, Foysol Choudhury MSP (Lab) asked if there were accurate statistics showing the scale of the problem and was informed there were not, since non-healthcare professionals are not currently regulated and therefore this information was not held by Scottish or UK Governments. Jenni Minto explained that codes to track NHS treatments for complications from such procedures did not exist – so statistics were unavailable, and the establishment of such codes was not a devolved matter. However, she agreed to engage with her UK counterparts after the general election to resolve the matter. Finally, Katy Clark MSP (Lab) expressed her concern that further consultations and delays would result in regrettable public harm and that interim measures were urgently needed now.

Miles Briggs MSP (Con) sponsor of the Roundtable said “The lack of regulation is deeply troubling and makes it easy for people to procure unsafe products from unlicensed sources and could be set to get worse in Scotland if it doesn’t follow the example of England, which is moving to correct some of these issues.”

Hamish Dobbie who organised representatives for the Roundtable “Scotland needs action now, even if that requires interim measures. I was delighted with Ms Minto’s suggestion for a cross-party group to get consensus and momentum behind new regulation. A quick win would be to bring Scottish Law into alignment with the rest of the UK and make it illegal to provide aesthetic procedures to under 18s.”

Campaigners left the round-table event feeling hopeful, as Jenni Minto agreed to convene a cross-party group in September, after the Parliamentary recess, to fast track an effective solution. Campaigners are adamant, however, that to avoid a major public health crisis, a comprehensive approach is required – including stricter regulations, improved public education, and enhanced enforcement of existing laws.

Both the UK and the Scottish Governments have had over a decade to formulate a strategy to combat the crisis which was identified in the Keogh Report published in 2013. Time is running out before unnecessary and wholly preventable loss of life occurs.

Michelle Duffield

Michelle Duffield

Published 08th Jul 2024

Michelle is the editorial assistant to Aesthetic Medicine magazine.

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