Ash Mosahebi, professor at UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, offers a next step for independent prescribing pharmacists with an interest in aesthetics.

There has been increasing demand for a growing range of cosmetic procedures – both for women and men. However, lack of regulation and training in cosmetic surgery have been an issue for years. As the popularity of cosmetic treatments increases, the problem has been gathering pace.

It is anticipated as we move through the pandemic that there will be an even greater demand for aesthetic treatments because treatments have had to be cancelled or put on hold.

The British Association of Aesthetic Surgeons (BAAPs), for which I am an honorary council member, is aware of the potential for a significant increase in the demand for treatments once the lockdown restrictions are eased and appointments can be booked again. BAAPs has reported an upswing in demand for virtual consultations during lockdown – and it is anticipated that this will translate to people seeking to book surgical and minimally-invasive treatments as soon as they can.

With such demand, putting into place medically-sound and ethical training, for a range of healthcare practitioners, is a sensible step to help protect patients.

When we look at the area of aesthetics treatments, we believe that pharmacists can have a significant part to play in delivering high quality minimally-invasive cosmetic treatments in the future.

As the vaccination programme is in full swing in the UK, we can see the amazing role that pharmacists are playing across the country vaccinating vast numbers of people against coronavirus, and the role of the pharmacist independent prescriber is more helpful now than ever.

NHS England national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh's review of the regulation of cosmetic practice was published in 2013. Recommendations were that the Government’s mandate for Health Education England (HEE) should include the development of accredited postgraduate qualifications for providers of non-surgical interventions and that it should determine accreditation requirements.

The minimally-invasive aesthetics sector in the UK is currently not robust enough to fully protect patients. There are too many unethical promotions and the onus is on the public to remain vigilant when choosing their practitioner. There is an increase in high street and DIY non-surgical cosmetic procedures, which is worrying.

We know that better regulation of practitioners, the products being used as well as the procedures is essential to ensure patients’ physical and psychological well-being. Putting in place robust training and qualifications from a medical centre of excellence, will allow patients to feel reassured. Signing up to any aesthetic treatment is a serious decision andany procedure should be accompanied by a thorough patient assessment – that covers their physical and psychological health. The aim is to standardise this and provide reassurance and safety for patients as a priority.

As this sector is outside the NHS, its governance has been the focus of much debate over recent years. Current regulations place no restrictions on who performs nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. BAAPS supports the UCL Masters’ which helps to improve aesthetics training standards. BAAPS’ research strategy will help form the research element of our Masters’ and direct future improvements and safety practices.

In September 2021, UCL launches a Masters’ in Surgery (MS) for aesthetics treatments, of which I am proud to be leading with the international faculty. We will welcome our first cohort of students in the autumn, which will include prescribing pharmacists registered with GPhC.

This will make UCL the first-ever global academic institution to offer a comprehensive Masters’ of Surgery (rather than a Masters’ of Science) in aesthetics surgery and minimally-invasive aesthetics. 

UCL’s MS Aesthetics (Minimally-Invasive Aesthetics) course will include principles and practice of aesthetics and research context, epigenetics and regenerative aesthetics, fundamentals of minimally-invasive facial aesthetics, minimally-invasive aesthetic practice and advanced minimally-invasive aesthetic practice.

Interested in setting up an aesthetics service in your pharmacy? Read the experiences of other pharmacists who have taken this step in our Clinical Ambassadors library