EXCLUSIVE

By Pete Richardson who assesses explosive comments in Parliament as an attempt to move closer to regulation in the aesthetic industry failed.

This week in Parliament attempts to regulate the aesthetics industry suffered a major setback.

Despite an “Urgent call” from the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practice (JCCP) to support a clause to bring in licencing to the industry, the amendment wasn’t even put to the vote as it was considered to be “deficient” and “…. not perfectly crafted”.

And one MP blasted the entire process of attempting regulation, highlighting the fact we have been trying for regulation for eight years and nothing has changed or is even looking like changing.

Is it a setback for the JCCP who just two weeks ago issued their “urgent call for action” claiming: “All MPs will be able to debate and vote on this amendment to the Bill on 22 November. We are therefore getting in touch with all our members to ask whether you would be willing to help us raise awareness of this important amendment in parliament by writing to your MP on this issue and asking for their support.”

That failed, as the amendment to the controversial Health & Social Care Bill was not voted on. Even the whole process of achieving of regulation has been called into question in a scathing attack by Kevan Jones MP, who has been campaigning on this issue for many years.

He said he has received numerous promises of action since Sir Bruce Keogh’s first recommendations for change way back in 2013 – but nothing has happened.

Mr Jones said: “I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years, during which time I have gone through a succession of Health Ministers, all of whom have come back with two points. The first is, “We are going to implement the Keogh recommendations”. But because Ministers were too terrified previously to make any health legislation, they were reluctant to bring those recommendations forward in that way.

“I have sheaves of letters from former Health Ministers saying, “The Keogh recommendations will be implemented”, but they have not been to date. If we do not do that in this Bill, when will it be done? I doubt that the Department will come forward with a Bill just to implement those recommendations; that is wishful thinking.”

He went on to say that not only is there little progress or prospect or progress, the existing systems of regulation for medics in the industry are failing as are controls on rogue advertising.

He was vociferous in his condemnations claiming: “The other side of the issue, to which I will turn in a minute, is the regulated system, which, frankly, is failing as well.

“I always hear from Ministers, “Well, doctors are regulated by the GMC, and you’ve got the Care Quality Commission looking after the private hospitals where these procedures are taking place,” but those bodies are failing. It took my constituent Dawn Knight six years to get a doctor struck off. Self-regulation through the General Medical Council does not work anymore. We need to change it if we are to ensure that the patient is not only protected, but can get redress.”

He went on: “”We also need to address the issue of advertising. As I have said before in the House, the Advertising Standards Authority is frankly a complete waste of time.”

And finally, he also addressed recent meetings with the Minister and the prospects for change and how difficult it is to get anything done.

He said he has even tabled a motion to force the NHS to collect data on the amount of money they spend on treating adverse effects – but that also failed.

Mr Jones said the whole process seems to be going nowhere: “The Keogh recommendations were published in 2013, Sir Bruce Keogh called for minimum standards. Well, there are no minimum standards or regulation of what should be going on, and that has to be put right. I agree with the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North that if this new clause is not perfectly crafted—it may well not be—we still need to ensure that there is regulation. I thank the Minister for the meeting we had last week—it took longer to arrange than getting an audience with the Pope, but we finally got it—and for the positive noises he made during the meeting, but I felt that the civil servants were reluctant to have any more regulation.”

The amendment calling for a licensing system for the aesthetics industry was brought forward by Caroline Noakes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee. In the debate she said: “I absolutely accept that the Minister may view my new clause as deficient and not doing what he would want it to do.”

And she added: “He can expect me not to push my new clause to a vote, but I very much hope he can show us a constructive way forward that may take us to the regime that we want to see.”

The debate shines a rare light on the route and roadblocks to regulation – while most people agree some form of regulation is required.

The Minster for Health, Edward Agar said in his comments in Parliament that he “..understands the intention behind the amendment” and that there is “a strong case made for further regulation in this area” but only that he would continue to work with stakeholders to “see if we can take this forward in the most appropriate way and to clarify the scope of any further legislation”.

One has to question whether these are just more hollow words after eight years of health minster promises or as supporters for change would say a step in the right direction towards licensing.

The Minister did reveal that he intends to comment on the All-Party Parliamentary Committee report into the aesthetic industry in early 2022.

However, as MP Kevan Jones pointed out it does seem like meetings take forever to arrange and then make little or no progress despite there being an appetite for change (Just 20 MPs signed supporting the amendment).

It’s also interesting to note the view that existing regulatory bodies are toothless and “failing” – at least according to one MP who has been campaigning on these issues for years.

Eight years since Keogh isn’t it time to have a root and branch rethink and devise a solution that works for the industry as it exists today rather than ploughing on with failing processes, committees making little progress and working with organisations like the “failing” GMC and CQC or the ASA that is branded: “..a waste of time”?

The JCCP was approached for comment – specifically a reaction to the failure of their “Urgent call to action” and the damning assessment in Parliament of the existing regulatory bodies with which the JCCP works so closely.

Professor Davide Sines, chairman of the JCCP, issued a statement last night in light of these developments.

He said: “The JCCP followed the Parliamentary debate yesterday relating to the Report Stage of the Health and Social Care Bill and remains positively encouraged with regard to its campaign to achieve a new system of licensing for the aesthetic sector in the interest of public protection and patient safety.”