Following a year long inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing has now published its final report into non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK. As health is a devolved matter, any changes introduced by the Westminster Government on the recommendations of the APPG would be restricted to England and Wales unless specifically adopted by the Scottish Government.

The report found many instances of good practice within the industry but concluded that the lack of a legal framework around training and standards has left consumers at risk and has undermined the industry's ability to develop. It is not yet known what regulatory framework, if any, will follow. Whilst regulation can sometimes be viewed as burdensome, it could well be a positive development for the beauty industry that will be welcomed by those who already demonstrate good practice and procedures.

Key findings of the report

The inquiry looked into how standards for undertaking non-surgical cosmetic treatments (such as Botox, fillers, PDO threads etc.) should be improved to both protect the public and to support the beauty industry.

Throughout the UK, thousands of consumers receive aesthetics treatments daily without any issue. However, there are instances of poor outcomes which can harm individuals and tarnish the industry's image. The report noted that as treatments and products have developed, the UK licensing and regulatory landscape has not always kept up, resulting in a piecemeal framework with scope for improvement.

The report makes 17 recommendations for the Westminster Government to implement, including:

  • Set national minimum standards for practitioner training;
  • Mandate that practitioners hold a regulated qualification in line with national standards;
  • Legislate to introduce a national licensing framework;
  • Require practitioners to hold adequate and robust insurance cover;
  • Make fillers prescription only;
  • Require on-site medical oversight for aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic treatments using prescription only medications, such as Botox and, if the recommendation above is followed, fillers;
  • Develop and mandate psychological pre-screening of customers;
  • Extend the ban on U18s receiving Botox and fillers to other invasive aesthetic treatments

What this could mean for the industry

Many of the proposed recommendations will be welcomed by the beauty industry. Setting national minimum standards for training will increase public confidence and provide more certainty to insurers, particularly in terms of novel treatments. The APPG also recommends that provision is put in place for existing practitioners to prove their competence to practice without requiring to undergo the time and incur the expense of re-training.

In terms of a national licensing framework for non-surgical cosmetic treatments, we can look to the provision in place for local authorities to licence activities such as piercing and tattooing. This allows the licensing authority to inspect and enforce standards in relation to premises, infection control, first aid, training and qualifications. This model could, perhaps, be adopted for non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

One concern with the wide-ranging recommendations proposed by the APPG could be the potential cost to individual practitioners. The beauty sector has, of course, been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, which have limited practitioners' ability to work. Having provisions to allow experienced practitioners to prove their competence, rather than re-train, is a good example of how the framework could be implemented to ensure many within the industry can continue practising without prohibitive costs.

The impact of the recommendations depends on the degree of implementation by the Westminster Government. This is not the first review into non-surgical cosmetic procedures, with the Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions led by Sir Bruce Keogh in 2013, however, few changes have been made to the regulatory framework following previous reports.

It is also worth noting that the Scottish Government is also currently consulting on regulation of non-surgical cosmetic procedures. The consultation paper proposes introducing a requirement for practitioners to hold a licence to carry out such a procedure, including inspection of premises and an assessment of knowledge, skill, training and experience to determine whether they are a fit and proper person to hold a licence. We may therefore soon see changes north of the border which may be adopted by the Westminster Government.

How this could impact negligence claims

Introducing minimum training standards and national licensing will help reputable practitioners respond to negligence claims. This is particularly relevant where claimant's solicitors may not understand the procedures in question and the relevant standards to be met.

The impact of psychological pre-screening ahead of non-surgical treatments will depend on the specifics. If, as recommended by the APPG, the Government works with the industry to develop these tests, it will assist practitioners in establishing that their treatment of potential claimants was appropriate in the circumstances. However, if an obligation to pre-screen clients is introduced without well-considered requirements for the test, this could lead to further uncertainty around negligence claims and disputes as to whether a practitioner's pre-screening was sufficient.

As readers may be aware, Qualified One Way Costs Shifting (QOCS) has just been introduced in Scotland for personal injury claims. This brings with it associated cost risks and the potential for spurious claims to be brought. The beauty industry may also therefore benefit from clarity surrounding practices and procedures which could assist in defending future claims and thereby reduce the impact of QOCS.


Lynn Livesey

Legal Director