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Tough new cosmetic industry guidelines – and what they mean for you April 20, 2016

Earlier this week, the General Medical Council announced new guidelines for the cosmetic surgery industry aimed at protecting vulnerable patients. The guidelines are designed to ensure that anybody who undergoes a cosmetic procedure fully understands the risks involved as well as the benefits, and that they are supported throughout the process and its aftermath.

New rules

The biggest change is that promotional offers designed to entice customers into paying for cosmetic surgery – such as ‘buy one, get one free’ – are now forbidden. What is more, cosmetic treatments can no longer be offered as competition prizes.

The guidelines also include stringent requirements for the consent process. They state that doctors must allow a two-week (minimum) ‘cooling off’ period between a customer signing up and surgery taking place. They must keep detailed records of each consultation, as well as recording treatment results. Not only that, but doctors must take personal responsibility for patient consent, as well as ensuring that the patient understands who they can get in touch with if they encounter any complications as a result of their treatment.

Coming soon

These guidelines – which cover all cosmetic procedures, including non-surgical treatments such as Botox – come into force across the United Kingdom in June. When they do, the consequences to doctors of contravening these guidelines are severe: those found doing so put themselves at risk of being struck off the medical register.

The new guidelines include a set of professional standards laid out by the Royal College of Surgeons for cosmetic surgery. They have been issued with a view to stopping a small but damaging minority of irresponsible practitioners, whose focus on profit is thought to be partly behind the huge rise in the number of patients undergoing cosmetic surgery.

What now?

With the clampdown on advertising in the cosmetic surgery, doctors who offer it will now need to concentrate on promoting their services through other means. One way of doing so is being rolled out by the Royal College of Surgeons: a certification scheme that recognises surgeons who have the right qualifications and insurance for a particular treatment. Those recognised by this scheme means will be included in a searchable database of surgeons that patients can use to find the right practitioner for the treatment they desire.

When it comes to more general promotion, the guidelines could hardly be clearer that enticing offers are not acceptable. More subtle methods of promoting cosmetic surgery services are needed. Online marketing provides many such opportunities, with promotion centred on your website – a place where you can also provide the detailed information that fully informs potential patients in a responsible way that adheres to the new guidelines.

Search engine optimisation is one marketing method that has the potential to bring large volumes of extra traffic to your website, with the big advantage that, through ranking for relevant keywords, those new visitors are already interested in services like yours. Among other strands of online marketing, brand reputation management can also work wonders, highlighting success stories and building trust in your brand.

So, with interest in cosmetic treatment higher than ever, and other promotion methods now severely limited, now is the time to think seriously about your online presence and the opportunities for responsible growth it can bring.

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