UK Government reiterates commitment to licensing non-surgical aesthetics sector

The UK government has reinforced its intention to license the non-surgical aesthetics sector in England. It comes after the JCCP, British Beauty Council, and the CIEH wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care, on behalf of the aesthetics industry.

In their correspondence to the Government, the supporting lobbying groups had set out key priorities for the administration to action. These were:

1. The design and implementation of a national licensing scheme for all premises where licenced procedures are conducted, as well as practitioners of non-surgical cosmetic procedures to ensure that all those who practise invasive procedures are competent and safe for members of the public (as proposed in Paragraph/Clause 180 of the Health and Care Act, 2022).
2. A requirement for all practitioners to hold adequate medical insurance to provide non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
3. The development of official guidance on the training and qualification expectations for all practitioners, including knowledge and application of infection controls and first aid training.
4. The development of a system for the effective recording of adverse incidents and public awareness raising to ensure that all cases that go wrong can be tracked and improvements to safety made accordingly. Members of the public need better tools and knowledge to protect themselves.

In the government’s response to the joint letter, the industry bodies received an outline of how the department is designing and implementing that new licensing system for the non-surgical cosmetic industry.

The minister responsible for taking forward the issue is Maria Caulfield, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for mental health and women's health strategy. In her reply, Caulfield set out the Government’s plans for ensuring standards for adequate training, insurance, first aid, and premises.

Caulfield also affirmed the development of future licensing to suit the ever-developing industry, saying: “We know this is a fast-moving sector, and officials will consider how best to future-proof the regulations so that new and emerging treatments are captured by the scheme.”

It is anticipated that the Government will outline its timetable for the implementation of the new licensing scheme in England within the coming weeks, as part of its wider response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s Inquiry Report on body image.

However, the time it will take for licensing to come into effect is still unknown, with minister Caulfield only stating that: “Departmental officials will work as quickly as possible to introduce the licensing scheme and will consider all the important areas.”

The governmental assurance comes after an investigation into the UK’s aesthetics industry aired on ITV1’s ‘Tonight’ programme on January 26. It uncovered the compelling impact of the industry and the challenges facing the sector.

The announcement follows the Government’s initial commitment, made in March 2022, to bring forward proposed regulation focusing on protecting patient safety by making it an offence to perform cosmetic procedures without a licence.

All three industry bodies released positive statements upon hearing the news: “It’s encouraging to hear that the Government remains committed to bringing forward licensing of non-surgical cosmetic procedures,” responded the chief policy officer at the British Beauty Council, Victoria Brownlie. The British Beauty Council is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to solving beauty’s shared challenges.

“With almost a million botulinum toxin or cosmetic filler injections now being administered each year, regulation is needed more than ever to protect consumers seeking these kinds of non-surgical treatments. We need to create a level playing field to give peace of mind that adequate training, hygiene and safety standards come as standard when having aesthetics treatments – raising the reputation of the sector and professionalising the industry as a whole,” Brownlie continued.

The second organisation, JCCP registers practitioners and training providers with the key remit of ensuring patient safety and public protection. Its chair, professor David Sines CBE commented: “We are reassured by the response received from the parliamentary under secretary of state to the key issues raised in our letter of representation… We very much look forward to continuing our engagement with the Government and healthcare regulators during the forthcoming months.”

Finally, the head of policy and campaigns at the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, Ross Matthewman also expressed praise for the announcement. The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 7,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

“We are delighted to see the Government firmly commit to bringing forwards the new licensing regime for non-surgical aesthetics in England,” said Matthewman. “This is an area that we and our partners have campaigned tirelessly on, culminating in the amendment to the Health and Care Act, allowing the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to create such a scheme. Creating better regulation of this industry is vital if we are to ensure consumer safety and create a genuine level playing field for practitioners. We look forward to working closely with the Government on the next steps.”