Cosmetic clinics urged to screen for mental health problems before offering cosmetic treatments

patient safety

Anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers are popular procedures and are readily available in clinics across the UK. As these procedures are deemed ‘non-surgical’ or ‘minimally-invasive’, the eligibility criteria are quite relaxed, with many people being regarded as suitable to choose to have this type of cosmetic work done. This is all set to change, with a tightening up of the rules that is welcomed by those who regulate the aesthetics industry and wish to ensure patient safety.

Mental health assessment before cosmetic treatment

Cosmetic surgery regulators and the NHS have previously voiced concerns that people suffering from negative body image perceptions should not have such an easy route to access cosmetic treatments. They are concerned that these people may have a skewed perception of how they look and how these procedures can help address this. The challenge for people suffering from body dysmorphia is that they are rarely pleased with the results that they achieve, meaning that the surgery does not help improve how they feel or how they believe they look.

The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners believes that “practitioners should be trained to recognise vulnerable individuals who are looking for “quick fixes” and to assess their suitability for the procedures.” It is their belief that clinics have more of a responsibility to their patients and should be screening people for warning signs ahead of agreeing their suitability for surgery.

According to a report published in the Guardian, “clinic staff will be trained to understand the issues around people’s appearance and how to spot signs that a would-be customer may have a mental health problem. Anyone who appears vulnerable could be advised to seek help and directed to nearby NHS mental health services.”

Widespread support for these patient safety measures

Professional bodies such as the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) believe that these measures are a necessity and would like to see them rolled out even more widely. At the moment, clinics that are members of the trade body the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners will be given training and guidance to ensure they know how to correctly identify those in the higher risk categories when it comes to mental health screening.

BAAPS has developed an ‘ABCDE’ screening tool for its members which aids surgeons in performing necessary checks on patients’ suitability before they are approved for surgery. Part of the assessment involves studying the patient’s behaviour, motivations and expectations from the surgery, to ensure that they are meeting appropriate mental health markers.

Even though treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers are non-surgical, they can still result in serious complications and less than satisfactory results, so this move to introduce similar standards to the aesthetics industry is welcomed by cosmetic surgery professionals and professional bodies who often see examples of botched aesthetic procedures in their clinic.