The General Medical Council (GMC) has published new guidance for doctors who offer cosmetic interventions.The guidance, which applies to all doctors who offer any cosmetic interventions including surgical and non-surgical, invasive and non-invasive procedures, aims to ensure higher standards of patient care. Key points include that doctors must consider patients’ psychological needs, be realistic about what the outcomes of any intervention may achieve, give patients sufficient time and information to make a decision, and market their services responsibly e.g. without making unjustifiable claims or using promotional offers that might lead to people making ill-considered decisions.

This guidance was developed following a public consultation held between June and September 2015. It comes into effect on 1 June 2016.

To supplement the broad principles set out by the GMC, The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has published guidance on professional standards for surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery.

The RCS guidance addresses key issues in relation to cosmetic surgery including communication, consent, professional behaviours and patient safety. The standards aim to ensure that the needs of individual patients are at the centre of the consultation discussion. Later this year the RCS will launch a certification scheme allowing patients and hospitals to search for a certified surgeon who has appropriate training for the procedure they are considering.

The new guidance comes as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics prepares for a fact finding meeting on Friday 15 April with lawyers and sociologists, as part of the evidence gathering process for its cosmetic procedures inquiry.

The Council is looking at the ethical issues raised by cosmetic procedures more broadly, including procedures such as dermal fillers that are not necessarily carried out by doctors or other health professionals (and therefore wouldn’t be covered by the guidance issued today). The Council has recently completed a call for views and evidence on the ethical and social questions that are raised by the growing use of cosmetic procedures, the responses to which will help to inform the development of a report and recommendations due to be published in spring 2017.

Find out more about the Council’s work on cosmetic procedures.