NHS top doctor prompts stronger mental health safeguards on high street botox

Superdrug will introduce new mental health checks for customers who want to undergo cosmetic procedures, after England’s top doctor called on the beauty chain and other providers to do more to protect people against body image pressures.

NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis wrote to Superdrug raising concerns after the company announced it would be offering Botox and fillers at high street stores.

The firm has now agreed to put in place additional safeguards to stop people who seek cosmetic surgery in response to anxiety about their body or another mental health condition.

Professor Powis welcomed the move, and called on all providers to follow suit, but warned that checks needed to be applied correctly, by clinically-trained experts, in order to be effective.

The news comes soon after publication of the NHS Long Term Plan, which will dramatically expand mental health treatment.

At least £2.3 billion will fund a package of improvements, including services for children and young people.

NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Pressures on young people’s mental health are greater than they ever have been, with families and the health service too often left to pick up the pieces.

“The lack of tough checks on cosmetic surgery procedures means that the public is dependent on businesses taking voluntary steps to get their house in order, leaving people avoidably exposed to dangerous practices.

“Businesses that take action to deal with people responsibly, work to prevent harm and set themselves a high bar for their practices should make others follow suit.

“Our Long Term Plan for the NHS sets out one of the most ambitious packages of mental health care anywhere in the world, but as the health service steps up to support millions more families, we need business, employers and others to ask what more they can do to improve our country’s mental wellbeing.”

Currently there is no statutory regulation for private cosmetic surgery, with providers obliged only to take voluntary steps to ensure their services are delivered appropriately.

In a letter to Superdrug this week, Professor Powis highlights that clinically-approved tools to screen for mental ill health are publicly available and should be used alongside other essential checks in place.

A number of self-reporting tools, which have been approved by the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, are routinely used to identify this condition, which is the mental health problem most likely to be triggered or made worse with inappropriate cosmetic procedures like Botox injections.

Last year, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warned about the growing pressures placed on children and young people and said companies had a duty to crack down on drivers of mental ill health.

Stevens said that growing evidence suggests overuse of social media can have a damaging effect on youngsters, and suggested that a mental health levy from these platforms could be required.

He also criticised TV chiefs for screening cosmetic surgery adverts during the commercial breaks for programmes like Love Island, targeted at young people.