Cosmetic surgery advice misleading says Which?


London: Non-medical staff giving advice, misleading claims, remote prescribing and pressure selling are just some of the findings from a new Which? investigation* into the UK cosmetic treatments industry.

With nearly 1 in 5 UK adults saying they would consider having cosmetic surgery**, more needs to be done to protect consumers and put an end to the current ‘sales before safety’ cosmetic treatment climate.

Which? undercover researchers visited 19 clinics in England and Wales posing as prospective patients for breast surgery, liposuction and Botox®*** to test whether the clinics were giving patients sound advice. Transcripts of the consultations were analysed by independent experts**** and provided an unimpressive snapshot of the cosmetic treatments industry.

Experts were concerned to discover some clinic staff describing invasive surgery as ‘scarless’ or a ‘minor procedure’, with one sales assistant showing her breasts to a Which? researcher in order to make a sale. Even more worrying was literature which offered liposuction in an ‘office setting’ to avoid hospital costs.

Which? has identified three major areas of concern from the research:

Use of aggressive marketing puts undue pressure on consumers.
Poor information makes it hard for consumers to make informed decisions about their treatment or where to have it.
Rule breaking is going unchecked because of weak and patchy regulation*****.
Which? health campaigner, Jenny Driscoll, says:

“There are risks with all cosmetic treatments, so when people go for a consultation they should get accurate and in-depth advice from a medical professional, not a pitch from an unqualified salesperson.

“Our investigations in recent months have revealed a relaxed attitude to non-surgical treatments such as Botox and it is worrying to find that it is being prescribed by doctors without them having seen or even spoken to the patient.

“The Health and Social Care Bill is currently going through Parliament and Which? will be calling for the Government to make sure that regulation of this industry is more robust.”

More information on this campaign:
*For its report The good, the bad and the ugly – the cosmetic treatments industry, Which? visited 19 clinics in England and Wales in summer 2007. The consultations took place at well-known chains and local clinics in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol, Leicester and Cardiff. Which? researchers had one pre-surgery or pre-treatment consultations at each clinic. Each consultation was recorded using hidden audio equipment. The visits focussed on two types of cosmetic surgery: liposuction (7 visits) and breast augmentation (6 visits). Six clinics were also visited for initial consultations on Botox®.

**Which? face-to-face omnibus survey of 2089 adults 16+, August 2007.

*** Botox® is a prescription-only drug and must be prescribed by a health professional (usually a doctor) with prescribing rights. Which? found examples where Botox® would be provided without the direct involvement of a doctor or other health professional with independent prescribing rights.

****Each visit was assessed by an independent expert for aspects of the consultation, the practitioner and the verbal information given to the prospective patient. Which? also assessed any written information provided at the visit. The overall ratings for the clinic visits were mixed – with no clinics rated as excellent and just 5 clinics rated as good.

***** To see a copy of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS) Good Medical Practice in Cosmetic Surgery, please visit For more information on the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) position on Botox®, please visit

The findings follow a recent Which? investigation at the Body Beautiful show in London (2nd -4th November) where 20 examples of breaches of industry rules were found.

On 5 December the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) censured the Harley Medical Group for a poster advert that said “Gorgeous breasts just got easy with cosmetic surgery … ” as it implied that breast augmentation was risk free.
Anyone considering a cosmetic treatment can visit for a comprehensive guide and the opportunity to feedback.