Cosmetics clinics that offer procedures like Botox and fillers are to begin assessing patients for mental health problems.
After a meeting with NHS England, the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners(JCCP) has agreed to introduce new measures to protect those who may be vulnerable.
As a result clinic staff will be trained to recognise the symptoms of mental health conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which can cause people to obsess over their appearance.
Anyone who appears at risk will be referred to NHS facilities/
“Cosmetic firms bringing in tighter controls to protect young people’s mental health is a major step forward,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director.
However, he believes that the new measures do not go far enough.
“Voluntary steps on their own mean mental health too often will still be left in the hands of providers operating as a law unto themselves,” he said. “Appearance is one of the things that matters most to young people, and the bombardment of idealised images and availability of quick-fix procedures is helping fuel a mental health and anxiety epidemic.”
While all members of the JCCP are expected to follow the new code, Prof Powis pointed out that not all cosmetic firms belong to the body, and therefore will not have to implement the same changes.
“The NHS long-term plan is dramatically expanding world-leading mental health services, but we cannot just be left to pick up the pieces – we need all parts of society to show a duty of care and take action to prevent avoidable harm,” he added.
Kitty Wallace, from the Body Dysmorphic Disorder foundation, said: “Cosmetic procedures like Botox, now widely available on the high street, are putting people at risk and can have a damaging effect on the mental health of young people. We know that people with BDD are more likely to turn to ‘quick fix’ procedures that ultimately do not address or help the underlying psychological condition.
”BDD affects one in 50 people, causing significant distress and has a huge impact on quality of life. It’s great to see the NHS and professionals leading the sea change, but we now need all parts of society to change their attitudes and take action to protect vulnerable individuals.”
The move follows the lead set by health and beauty retailer Superdrug in January 2019 after Prof Powis wrote to the chain expressing concern that it was offering cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers.
The firm agreed that it would ask customers to complete a questionnaire developed by psychologists working in the field.
This asks customers if there are parts of their bodies they are anxious about, how often they look at these parts and how their anxiety interferes with their day-to-day activities.
Where concerns are raised, the health professional administering the treatments will be able to direct patients to a GP or the charity Mind for support.
Superdrug said in a statement that assessments are undertaken by qualified aesthetic nurse practitioners and last an hour.
“This enables us to ensure we understand our patients’ reasons for wanting aesthetic treatments,” the company said. "It also flags to our team any risks or concerns related to a patient’s mental health.”
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