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Two-thirds of cosmetic surgery injections in the U.K. are not administered by physicians

Photo by: Marco Verch via Flickr

An analysis of the cosmetic injectables market in the U.K. has revealed that 68% of injections such as botulinum toxins and fillers are not administered by medical doctors.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) set out to quantify the background qualifications, training, and experience levels of injectors in that country. Their findings, published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, are expected to help inform prospective amendments on injectables to the U.K. Medical Act in 2024.

In the study, the researchers evaluated 3,000 websites and identified 1,224 clinics and 3,667 practitioners administering cosmetic injections such as botulinum toxin. Results showed that 32% were physicians, 13% were nurses, 24% were dentists, and 8% were dental nurses. They determined that of the 1,163 physicians identified as injectors, 41% were registered as specialists and 19% as GPs. There were 27 specialties represented, with plastic surgery the largest group at (37%) followed by dermatology (18%).

“Without knowledge of the professional backgrounds of practitioners, we cannot adequately regulate the industry. Our research highlights that the majority of practitioners are not doctors and include other healthcare professionals, as well as non-healthcare professionals such as beauticians,” said Dr. David Zargaran of the UCL Surgery & Interventional Science department, and one of the paper’s authors, in a press release.

He noted the range of backgrounds of injectors raises the broader question of competence and consent. The government, he said, should ensure that practitioners who are granted a licence possess the skills and experience required to safely administer their treatment and minimize risks to patients.

“It is important for patients to be able to feel comfortable and confident that the person administering their treatment is competent in the procedure as a fundamental foundation of informed consent,” Dr. Zargaran said. “This research provides a unique insight into the sector to help inform regulators and patients, and work toward a safer and more transparent cosmetic injectables industry in the U.K.”

A second study from the same authors published in Skin Health & Disease looked at the incidence of complications related to botulinum toxin injections and the impact on patients. They found that 69% of respondents experienced long-lasting adverse effects from the injections, such as pain, anxiety, and headaches.

“The U.K. cosmetic injectables industry has expanded rapidly in recent years. This has happened largely without scrutiny or oversight,” said Prof. Julie Davies of the UCL School Global Business School for Health and co-author of the study.

“Our findings should be a wake-up call for legislators to implement effective regulation and professional standards to safeguard patients from complications,” she said. “Although the risks associated with injections are often mild and temporary, the physical complications can be permanent and debilitating. There are also serious psychological, emotional, and financial consequences for patients when procedures go wrong.”


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