The prosecution of an unlicensed laser clinic in Tower Hamlets last week has renewed fears that there may be hundreds of beauty and spa centers in London using laser equipment that does not meet safety standards.
Under the Care Standards Act 2000, beauticians who use lasers or intense pulsed light to remove hair are legally obliged to register their services with the health care regulator to guarantee minimum safety levels and legal protection for consumers.
The new independent regulator for health and social services, the Care Quality Commission, successfully prosecuted the owner of the Skin Health spa chain for operating hair removal lasers without registration.
The spa in Brushfield Street was one of five branches of the chain to be taken to court by the regulator, after members of the public raised concerns over the salon’s use of laser treatments. The spa was ordered to pay a total of £2,618 in a case heard at Thames Magistrates’ Court in October.
An investigation by East London Lines this week revealed there were at least four clinics in east London offering laser services that were not listed as registered practices by CQC.
Yesterday the chair of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services cosmetic surgery group, Andrew Vallance-Owen, said he believed the problem was widespread.
“We are deeply concerned about the number of unlicensed laser operators in London. IHAS believes that nearly 50 per cent of operators are currently unlicensed.”
He continued: “Lasers are not toys and there are risks involved, particularly if operators are not properly trained.”
Last year government proposals to deregulate lasers and Intense Pulsed Light treatments for cosmetic use were met with fierce opposition from plastic surgeons who had seen rapid rises in the number of people seeking advice after suffering adverse reactions, burns, and changes in pigmentation as a result of laser treatment.
Now, experts like Dr Valance-Owen fear that rising demand and falling costs will see a rise in the number of unregulated clinics and salons looking to operate laser and IPL devices on their customers.
Following on from the Tower Hamlets case, CQC senior enforcement manager Tim Weller insisted consumers should check whether or not their salon was listed on the regulator’s website before booking.
“I urge people considering laser treatment to do their research,” he said. “Ask detailed questions about safety procedures, professional qualifications and potential risks – any good provider will be happy to tell you.”