Cosmetic surgery compensation claims are now big business in the UK. Something that we assumed is for a US market.
It has been bought to the forefront with the PIP breast implant scandal. Non-authorised silicone in implants was used in the implants for over 47,000 British women.
These types of cases are not the only claims we see made due to medical error. I talk to specialist cosmetic surgery solicitor Michael Saul, who has worked as a solicitor for over 18 years and specialising in the medical sector for over 12 years. He talks to me about the industry and the growing need for regulation and improved standards.
Hi Michael, thank you for speaking with me.
Most women in the UK have heard about the PIP breast implant case but can you tell me what is the most common complaint you see?
The most common claim that we receive is concerning breast augmentation; specific issues with the shape of the breast, height of nipples or inappropriate scarring.
Second to this is rhinoplasty. Nose jobs that have left people with collapsed noses or saddle deformities, where the nose collapses and an indentation forms. This can be devastating for the victim as the defect can be so visible in everyday life.
Both of these procedures are pretty life changing and if they go wrong that can be devastating. How successful are claims in the cosmetic and aesthetic industry? Is it regulated enough that when things go wrong people are legally able to make claims easily?
I am a partner of Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors and we have a good success record (95% of cases won!) it does pay to get professional help.
A potential hazard that we’d warn people about is the level of insurance that the doctor or clinic holds. An insurance policy written on a “occurrence based” basis means that the practitioner should be covered for any claims made even if the insurance policy period is over. A “claims made” policy would only pay out for claims that arise from loss or damage that occur during the policy period, which could be an issue if the practitioner or surgeon is no longer insured with the same policy.
Sometimes, doctors have commercial or foreign insurance which carry a number of exclusions and limitations, or they may operate with an insurance policy with an excess so high that they cannot meet the excess. If a doctor doesn’t have adequate insurance they aren’t covered for the costs of a claim, and so the claimant could be left without compensation.
There is regulation in place, in that surgeons and practitioners should have full cover with a recognised medical defence organisation, but this is not always observed.
It sounds like people need to ensure they research the doctor performing the treatment, ensure they have adequate insurance cover and a good track record. What are the vital things people should clarify before booking any type of procedure surgical and non-surgical?
We recently ran a survey of UK adults and found that 65% of respondents were not aware that when it comes to considering cosmetic surgery, the number one recommendation from the NHS and Royal College of Surgeons is to consult with your GP for advice and assistance. As a response to this we put together a checklist for how to choose a cosmetic surgeon, which is aimed at helping consumers throughout the process.
What happens if it is too late and I have already had the surgery only to be left out of pocket for below average results. Is there anything you can do here? Is it worth the patient pursuing?
In order for a case to be viable there has to be signs of medical negligence, meaning that there has been a breach of the duty of care. Legally if there is no negligence and no breach of contract then there is no right to recompense. A clinic may offer, or agree,to revise the results out of goodwill, but there is no legal recourse for below average results. A below average result could be extremely disappointing, so it’s vital to ensure that your expectations are realistic before undertaking this kind of procedure.
That’s interesting, as some people may assume that they can make a claim because the results are not what they wanted. You often see cases of unrealistic expectations on shows like ‘Botched’ where cosmetic surgery is corrected. Do you think these kinds of shows are damaging for the industry? Or make it clear that you need to do your research?
In my opinion, these kind of TV programs are not really damaging to the industry. They make it clear that people need to do their research before undergoing surgery so, in some circumstances, they can have a positive impact on consumer awareness of the potential risks and complications.
How do I go about making a claim? And how soon after the surgery?
We suggest using a solicitor who specialises in cosmetic surgery claims. After contacting a solicitor, they will apply for your medical records and will arrange an appointment with an independent medical expert to assess your concerns. If the independent medical expert supports the case, the solicitor will submit a claim to the doctor or clinic and their insurers become involved and respond to the claim.
Final results of procedures are not always clear until up to 12 months after the treatment. We’d advise that it’s important for you to attend the standard follow-up appointments at three or six months post procedure, even if you’re unhappy. The cut off point is three years from the date that you noticed negligence, but we’d suggest that a claim is issued within three years from the date of treatment.
What do you think will change in the future? will we see more regulation and in what form? Will patients be protected?
In the future, there will be increased regulations for those who are practising invasive and non-invasive procedures..
Personally, I have an issue with parts of the sector that sees clinics and doctors put profits before patients and commerce before ethics - this needs to stop. We need to see an outright ban ‘special offers’, where patients are being pressured into committing quickly, or where patients are being sold extra procedures.
I also think that clinics offering major invasive surgeries, should be compelled to have compulsory insurance, and the government should set up a fund of last resort to provide compensation for victims of substandard procedures.
Long term I think the industry training needs updating. It’s currently mandatory for doctors who perform invasive surgeries to have specialist GMC regulation but there is no higher surgical training required for those in aesthetics or cosmetic surgery. The higher surgical training that a cosmetic surgeon would undertake is in the field of plastic surgery, which is not wholly focused on aesthetics. It would be beneficial to introduce a higher surgical training program specifically for cosmetic surgery and procedures.
If you have had a treatment or are thinking about it then do read this e-book Cosmetic surgery - knowing your rights if something goes wrong
If you think you have a claim then get in touch with Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors here: