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The Worrying Trend for Non-Medical Individuals Seeking Careers in Aesthetic Medicine

Demand for aesthetic training from non-medical professionals is on the rise. We frequently receive such enquiries: “I have no medical qualifications but would love to learn to inject botox and fillers at your institute” This is very

Non-Medical Careers in Aesthetic Medicine

Demand for aesthetic training from non-medical professionals is on the rise. We frequently receive such enquiries:

“I have no medical qualifications but would love to learn to inject botox and fillers at your institute”

This is very alarming!

The UK’s aesthetic industry is rapidly flourishing and being valued as worth several billions of pounds, it offers even more prospects than ever.

This is due to not only the increased popularity of medical aesthetic treatments (e.g. botox and fillers) but also the ever-expanding beauty industry including salon/ spa treatments and cosmetic products (perfumes, creams etc).   The amalgamation of both these industries has provided more opportunities than ever for people to look and feel their best.

The combination of smart phones and social media has resulted in glamorous celebrities and high profile figures being both photographed and viewed more than ever before.  Social media platforms are packed full of images of faces that the public find desirable, and users are bombarded with both adverts for and celebrity endorsements of cosmetic products as well as videos of various cosmetic treatments.  There are unprecedented levels of self-awareness of one’s image and consequently the demand to achieve the desired physical appearance has never been higher.

Beauty regimes no longer just consist of cleansing, toning and moisturising.  Everyone seems “busier” than ever, yet booking an appointment at an aesthetics clinic for botox/fillers/chemical peels has become more mainstream, since it offers an opportunity for the public to pass the maintenance of their youthful looks to a professional, amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The rocketing growth of the industry has led to more people wishing to be involved in the business of providing aesthetic services.   Constantly evolving products, a vast number of new innovative treatments and numerous pathways to specialise certainly makes it an exciting career choice.  Both medical professionals (e.g. doctors and dentists) and non-medical practitioners (e.g. beauty therapists) have been attracted to working in the aesthetics industry.

Now the question arises…should non-medical individuals i.e. those who have not undertaken formal medical training be allowed to carry out treatments such as botox and fillers? 

 There are horrific stories of non-medical individuals performing botched aesthetic treatments:

Online searches reveal dozens of stories about non-medically trained “professionals” performing horrendous treatments and leaving patients with serious complications.  We recently came across a YouTube video which featured a training company claiming to be collaborating with the prestigious Newcastle University to provide a facial dissection course exclusively for beauty therapists with no medical education.

When contacted, Newcastle University declined to have any associations with the company and said they were not collaborating to organise or host this course. Such stories are appearing on a daily basis, highlighting non-qualified or poorly qualified people carrying out dangerous treatments without any fear of regulations or the law.  They are literally playing with the lives of vulnerable and naïve patients who approach these practitioners for improved facial aesthetics and end up not only having their looks ruined but also having had their lives placed in danger.

This topic has been the most debated subject in the cosmetic industry…Is it right that non-medical individuals should be able to attend aesthetic training courses and administer fillers and prescription-only medications such as Botulinum toxin (botox)?  Are beauty therapists with as little as NVQ level 3 safe and qualified enough to meet the standards of medical qualification?

Firstly it is absolutely wrong to consider beauty therapists and other non-medical individuals to be remotely equivalent to medical aesthetic practitioners (such as doctors and dental surgeons).  It is quite frankly discourteous towards those who have spent years of hard work and dedication achieving their degrees and post-graduate training.

Secondly, if it was appropriate for non-medical individuals to be performing such treatments, why are they not already trained as part of their most advanced training?  The answer is quite simple – by law prescription only medications such as botox can only be prescribed by a medical practitioner.  These therapists would have to work through a medical practitioner who was prepared to provide and be responsible for prescription only substances going into potentially dangerous hands.

Thirdly, non-medical practitioners cannot be held accountable for performing aesthetic treatments in the same way as doctors, dentists and nurse prescribers.  The regulatory and governing bodies which medical professionals are accountable to simply don’t exist for non-medical individuals.  When one attends a consultation with a medical professional there is an obligation to be provided with a full aesthetic consultation and examination.   The risks, benefits and possible complications of a treatment (and its management) are discussed.  Non-medical therapists are only able and expected to provide a basic cosmetic evaluation and perform a beauty treatment. Treatments such as dermal fillers can cause extremely dangerous complications such as vascular occlusion and blindness.  It is therefore irresponsible for non-medical practitioners to be allowed to administer such treatments, as they are not qualified and required to know the intricacies of facial anatomy or qualified to deal with medical emergencies.

and the management of medical emergencies.

Essentially there is an issue of “double standards” occurring.  As far as a patient is concerned, having a specific aesthetic treatment should be standardised regardless of where they go to have it done.  The reality is though, that are two distinct groups providing the same treatment; one group being suitably educated with medical degrees and another potentially having only an NVQ level of education.

Administering aesthetic injectable treatments correctly and safely is not a piece of cake!  It requires deep knowledge of anatomy, physiology, risks, complications involved and background medical knowledge.   Doctors, dentists and some nurses have this and ensure that patient safety is their number one priority.

 Regulations for medical professionals are set to increase further:

Following on from Sir Keogh’s Report, the General Medical Council (GMC) has voiced the concerns of medical professionals and has recently released new legislation for aesthetic practitioners.  According to it, medical professionals practicing cosmetic treatments are required to register their independent aesthetic clinics with the regulatory body and will be subject to regular inspections.

However, these regulations have failed to pinpoint beauty therapists and other “cosmetic cowboys” who are putting people’s lives in danger. They simply remain unregulated. Meanwhile, and with good cause, doctors, dentists and nurses undergo though and stringent regulations and inspections, making them answerable to the public as well as to their professional regulatory bodies.

The risk of putting tighter regulations on medical professionals yet no regulation at all on non-medical practitioners may actually have negative consequences.  Doctors and other medical professionals may have to increase the price of their treatments further to cover the costs of registration with the regulatory body, potentially driving clients to seek treatment elsewhere with non-medically qualified individuals. 

The Responsibility of Aesthetic Training Institutes:

Training Institutes have a very important role to play in this situation and need to take responsibility for whom they train.  Although here at The Harley Street Training Institute we never train beauty therapists, there are many other courses and institutions that remain to do so.  Some nationally known universities offer cadaveric dissection classes for beauticians!

This practice needs to come to an end!  If they wish to have training in aesthetic medical treatments, such as botox and fillers, they should adopt the right path i.e. obtain training in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, clinical medicine and surgery, which would entail attending medical, dental or nursing school.

The Bottom Line:

There is a dire need for regulations specifically governing non-medical individuals providing aesthetic treatments.  New regulations have already been imposed on the already tightly controlled medical professionals.  Although regulations involving patient safety and quality of care are always a welcomed step amongst medical professionals, regulation of non-medical practitioners should have been addressed first.  The aesthetic training institutions should never allow beauty therapists and other non-medical individuals to undertake their training courses, which would help discourage such practitioners entering the industry.

I used to be general practitioner by profession but training in aesthetics opened up new and exciting world for my career. I have a passion for writing so I blog about the various options that are available for general practitioners in the industry of aesthetic treatments and how these can open up an exciting career for them. I reside in London and I simply love my new career shift as an aesthetic practitioner!