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England’s top doctor has today welcomed extra safety checks that will be introduced by those offering cosmetic procedures to protect people with mental health problems.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, recently raised concerns about the links between young people’s mental health, high street botox sales and celebrity endorsements of quick-fix diet pills peddled on social media.

After meeting with NHS England, trade body the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners has agreed that all its members will be expected to use safeguards to prevent vulnerable people from exploitation.

That will include training staff to spot the signs of mental ill health in customers, and refer them to relevant NHS services.

Professor Powis hailed the new checks as a “major step” in improving the duty of care that firms show towards customers.

However, the national medical director warned that many providers are not members of the Council, so consumers must ensure they properly vet firms before signing up for procedures.

There is growing evidence to suggest that people with body image issues are more likely to have cosmetic procedures.

Around 1 in 50 people is affected by body dysmorphic disorder – a disabling mental health condition which causes people to obsess over perceived flaws in their appearance and leads to extreme distress and negatively impacting on their quality of life.

NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis, said: “Cosmetic firms bringing in tighter controls to protect young people’s mental health is a major step forward, but 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.

“We know that appearance is the 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.

“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.”

Kitty Wallace, Trustee for the Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) 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 Body Dysmorphic Disorder are more likely to turn to ‘quick fix’ procedures that ultimately do not address or help the underlying psychological condition. BDD affects 1 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 NHS Long Term Plan set out one of the most ambitious packages of care for mental health anywhere in the world – backed by £2.3 billion of investment a year. It will mean 380,000 more people being able to access talking therapies for common disorders, 345,000 more young people getting NHS support, and specialist care for new families.

All cosmetic practitioners registered with the Joint Council for Cosmetic Procedures – the leading professional body for practitioners of cosmetic procedures – will be expected to meet the following criteria:

  • Training in procedures and the psychology of appearance
  • Recognise the signs and symptoms of psychological vulnerability and mental ill health
  • Assess customers for their suitability for treatment based on latest evidence
  • Practitioners will be trained to signpost customers to relevant services if they show signs of vulnerability

There is currently no statutory regulation for private cosmetic procedures, with providers obliged only to take voluntary steps to ensure their services are delivered appropriately.

Studies show that fewer than 10% of people who go through cosmetic procedures like lip fillers are satisfied with the outcome.

Earlier this year, the NHS prompted stronger mental health checks in a high street beauty chain and other providers for customers who want to undergo cosmetic procedures, to protect people against body image pressures.