Aesthetics licencing is coming following a Government announcement today – but it may take a while. Pete Richardson explains all the new developments and their implications for practitioners and training academies

Finally, after years of reports, consultation, recommendations, and lots of different opinions the Government has decided to act and bring in licensing for the aesthetics industry.

In a press release under the headline “Government to crack down on unregulated cosmetic procedures”, the Government has announced it is finally taking action to introduce a licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers.

An amendment to the Health and Care Bill being tabled today (Tuesday 1 March) would give the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the power to introduce a licensing regime for Botox and fillers, the scope and details of which will be determined via extensive engagement including a public consultation – so it will take a while.

The amendment needs to become law – which won’t happen for another few months maybe, to be followed by the “extensive” consultation period. So maybe another 18 months before the licensing is imposed.

And then there’s the question of who will police it – but more importantly, what will practitioners need to do to get a licence?

It’s likely to focus on the premises – but also have a requisite to require a certain level of training.

Today’s announcement says: “Although the majority of the aesthetics industry shows good practice when it comes to patient safety, this step will ensure consistent standards and protect individuals from those without licences, including from the potentially harmful physical and mental impacts of poorly performed cosmetic procedures.”

It goes on to highlight that the proposed licensing scheme will introduce consistent standards that individuals carrying out non-surgical cosmetic procedures will have to meet, as well as hygiene and safety standards for premises.

It will focus on those cosmetic procedures which, it says if improperly performed, have the potential to cause harm such as Botox and fillers.

The move has been welcomed by many including Maxine McCarthy, CEO of the award-winning training academy Cosmetic Couture. Maxine said: “It’s good news but I know lots of people will panic and think this will stop them doing their job – it won’t.

“This is a very positive step and I’ve been campaigning for this for many years. It’s about time they regulated an industry that is like the Wild West and those of us who work professionally should all welcome this and contribute to the debate about how the licensing scheme works.

“I would say it should be like a passport system with lots of tick boxes so that you can prove you have all the required policies and procedures, are a competent injector, have a prescriber and clinical oversight – and all the things we already do to help ensure public safety.

“Only the cowboys have anything to be scared of.”

Professor David Sines, chairman of the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) was delighted by the news.

He said: “The JCCP was delighted to receive confirmation that the Secretary of State is now minded to introduce a national system of licensing for non-surgical cosmetic procedures in England following his decision to introduce an amendment to the forthcoming Health and Care Bill.

“The JCCP places patient safety and public protection at the heart of all of its activities and has campaigned relentlessly over the past four years for the implementation of a nationally approved system of licensing for the aesthetic sector underpinned by mandated standards for education and training for all practitioners.”

Today’s announcement follows roughly the recommendations of a group of influential MPs who last year recommended massive changes and new laws for the aesthetics industry.

And these were mostly in line with ideas that Cosmetic Couture CEO Maxine McCarthy submitted to their consultation two years previously before they published their report in July last year.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (the APPG), made 17 recommendations with the main six being: (So these are the most likely to be included in any license scheme given that the first one has been announced today!!)

  • Bring in a new law to create a licensing structure for all businesses practicing aesthetics – you’d have to have a licence to be able to practice from any premises, mobile or at home
  • Make fillers a prescription only medicine (POM) – meaning it would be the law to have a face-to-face consultation and clinical oversight to administer fillers – and this must be by a medical practitioner/prescriber
  • Setting national minimum standards for practitioner training – meaning everyone would have to have a new nationally recognised qualification to practice which would start at level 4 (degree level) and run up to level 7!
  • Make it a law to have a psychological pre-screening of all clients – and make training in this psychological screening a legal requirement of the new qualification
  • Place advertising restrictions on dermal fillers and other invasive aesthetic treatments – meaning it would be illegal to advertise fillers in the same way it is now illegal to advertise Botox
  • Stricter legal controls on insurance – The Government should require all practitioners to hold adequate and robust insurance cover and set an industry standard for the level of proven competence that is required to gain coverage. Any future national licensing scheme must also make this a requirement of holding a licence.

These were only recommendations but could form the basis of Government policy going forward as they have already now implemented number one!

Maxine McCarthy welcomed most of them at the time – except making dermal fillers a POM.

Today the APPG also welcomed the news on licensing which was central to their recommendations.

Co-Chairs of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, welcomed the announcement, saying:

“We are thrilled to see the Government has accepted our recommendation to introduce a national licensing framework in law for non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

“The APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing’s year-long investigation found that the regulation of these treatments remains fragmented, obscure and out of date, meaning anyone can carry out any treatment, anywhere, with next to no restrictions on what qualifications they must have to do so. This has left consumers at risk and undermined the industry’s ability to develop.

“A licensing framework set in law is an important step in the right direction, however this must be underpinned by mandated national minimum standards for practitioner training.

“Maintaining the status quo is not an option. We urge the Government to accept our report’s recommendations in full and look forward to working with them to better protect consumers and support the industry”.

There is much work to be done but we will keep you updated on progress in the development of the licensing regime, and continued efforts to lobby the Government to deliver on the wider recommendations made in the APPG’s report – except making dermal fillers a POM!

Maxine says change is needed, a licence scheme is needed, and standards need to be raised.

She said: “It’s obvious there needs to be changes – we need a national qualification open to all and it’s great that the APPG report highlighted that and that both medics and non-medics should be treated equally in the industry and be given equal access to a new qualification at level 4 and then to level 7.

“It’s also obvious we need a licencing scheme. We already have the basis of an inspectorate which defines what good premises should look like so we know that this is important and have been at the forefront of setting these standards.

“But making fillers a POM is a step too far and I don’t support that.

“I will be working to put our views across when the consultation process begins – that the government should help create qualification pathways, regulation and voluntary registers that are transparent and fully available for all practitioners – both medical and non-medical.”