The Health and Care Act was passed in April 2022, and covers a wide range of significant reforms to the way that health and care services in England are organised and delivered. One area that will be of particular interest to the beauty industry is outlined in Section 180 and Schedule 19, and will markedly affect every practitioner in the sector. rradar’s Legal Director – Head of Insured Regulatory Stephanie Thirlwell walks you through what you need to know.

What powers are introduced by the Act?

The new legislation gives the Government powers to introduce a licensing scheme for those that operate in England offering non-surgical beauty procedures. Scotland has recently announced its intention to update laws in this area too. The aim is to set a level playing field for anyone wanting to offer cosmetic surgery. This will ensure all practitioners are operating at the same standard from premises that are fit for purpose and that the public is protected from harm.

What are the timescales for implementation?

Though the Government is intent on putting licences in place, there is no defined timescale as yet. We do know, however, that in Autumn 2023, there are likely to be two national consultation exercises ahead of defining a licence scheme. These consultations are expected to:

1.define the procedures in scope of the licence;

2.define standards of education and training for procedures in the scope of the licence.

It is expected to be 2 years before the licensing scheme is in force. There is likely to be a transition period to give people time to get a licence and provision to give everyone time to apply and meet conditions of the licence.

What areas are likely to be in scope of the regulations?

Training and qualifications for non-surgical procedures
Issues around product supply
Formalising complaints procedures
Formalised guidance and advertising restrictions

What is considered to be a non-surgical procedure?

The Health and Social Care Act 2022 defines a non-surgical procedure carried out for cosmetic purposes as:

the injection of a substance;
the application of a substance that is capable of penetrating into or through the epidermis;
the insertion of needles into the skin;
the placing of threads under the skin;
the application of light, electricity, cold or heat.

Using this definition, the following count as non-surgical procedures:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • Botox injections
  • Laser hair removal
  • Tattoo removal
  • Chemical peels
  • Face and lip fillers (dermal fillers)
  • Skin lightening
  • Permanent make-up

How do I get a licence?

When the scheme is in force, beauty practitioners will be able to apply for a licence via their local authority.

Who will be the regulator?

It is yet to be determined who will oversee and endorse the licence and provide the education and training involved. Licensing is likely to be enforced by Local Authority Environmental health officers.

How much will it cost?

It is likely that the processes for other licensing schemes will be followed and the cost of a licence is likely to be periodic, with licences being granted for terms of 3-5 years. Licences may be granted for shorter periods in certain circumstances where more regular reviews are considered necessary.

What about medical professionals offering non-surgical procedures who are already regulated?

It is likely that all practitioners who perform procedures within scope will have to show a standard of skill and proficiency – irrespective of background and whether or not they are regulated medical professionals. Everyone will be required to work at a similar high standard and comply with the regulatory requirements of the new licences. It may be that where there is duplication, an enhanced scheme and collaborative approach is adopted with existing regulators (e.g. CQC/GMC/NMC). The Government are likely to issue further guidance in respect of practitioners who are already regulated in some way though it is clear they will be subject to demonstrating the same high standards.

Will insurance be mandatory?

All practitioners will be legally required to hold indemnity insurance.

Who will be able to input at the consultation stage?

Both practitioners and the public are expected to contribute to the consultation stage, which is anticipated to begin in Autumn 2023.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Penalties are likely to be financial. Fines are likely to be set high enough to demonstrate a deterrent and to encourage raised standards and promote professionalism. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 creates criminal offences that will also be relevant in this sector.

Will there be a register of professionals?

One national register will be created to list qualified professionals and to detail qualifications. The Government is set to encourage a level of transparency by providing reliable information for consumers. Courses will be standardised and verified with a high level of competency.

When in force, the legislation will reduce the risk of harm to the public associated with ineffectively performed non-surgical procedures (aesthetic procedures). At present, there is still a lot of clarification as to what the licensing scheme will look like and detailed government guidance will be required. There is no doubt, however, that the existence of such a scheme will offer the industry a professional reputation.