When I talk to other Doctors about marketing and promoting my Practice I can see that some take a dim view of this and I know that there have been calls in the past for advertising to be banned for cosmetic surgery.
I can understand this view and if it was a consensus across the industry then I would fully support it.
However, the problem with the industry at present is that there are a wide range of practitioners who offer cosmetic surgery and it is very difficult to police the practices that go on.
We all know that the word Botox should not be used in advertisements because it is a trade name, and yet it is widely promoted.
Since 2012 I have been in full-time private practice and as I now run my own clinic, it is necessary for me to learn how to market and promote myself.
When I looked into the details of marketing I realised it is not what most doctors think it is.
I know this because I used to think of it as a slightly unsavoury practice that any good doctor would be above.
I used to think that patients would come to me and if someone enquired and I missed the call, then they would always get back to me if they really wanted the procedure.
However, the reality is it can be very confusing for patients and when they are looking for cosmetic surgery there is a wide array of services on offer and the patient has to make a decision about who they are going to trust and allow to do their surgery.
There are only a handful of fully trained plastic surgeons in the UK but there is a disproportionate amount of plastic surgery performed by surgeons who are not BAAPS or BAPRAS members.
The majority is performed by other surgeons who are working in the commercial clinics which operate from dawn to dusk five, six or seven days a week.
Why do so many patients go to the commercial clinics for treatment and why are not all the plastic surgeons in this country oversubscribed?
I think the answer is marketing and PR.
Cosmetic surgery is different to other forms of medical treatments because patients tend to do their own research.
They choose a practitioner based on word or mouth recommendation or by searching on the internet.
If you had chest pain or indigestion, you would go to your GP for a referral to a specialist, but the majority of cosmetic surgery is by self-referral.
From a patient’s perspective when they are looking for a cosmetic surgery provider all they have to go on is the public profile that is visible to the world.
Unfortunately, many highly trained and well respected plastic surgeons do not have any significant visibility on the internet or other forms of media and when searching for plastic surgery on the internet the commercial clinics dominate.
Marketing and advertising is in itself not a bad thing; it is just getting the message out about the services you provide.
Of course, it can be done in an unethical way, but it can also be done in an ethical and transparent way.
In fact, to develop a long-term sustainable business the only way to do it is by being open and honest.
I believe we owe it to patients to inform them of the training involved in becoming a surgeon and the difference between the surgical specialties.
They should also know about the level of training required to become an NHS consultant and to obtain admitting rights in the main private hospitals such as Spire, BMI, Nuffield and Ramsey.
I am not saying that only surgeons who have achieved the level of an NHS consultant should be providing the care (although in the NHS all patients need to be under the care of a doctor who has achieved this level), but what I am saying is that patients should be aware of the level of training of their doctors so that they can make an informed decision as to who the best person to perform their procedure would be.
This is all part of informed consent.
I regularly see patients who tell me that they have been operated on by a plastic surgeon, when in fact it may not have been a plastic surgeon, it may have been someone trained in a different surgical speciality or even someone not fully trained in a speciality at all.
Patients are always alarmed to hear that doctors without any speciality training can perform surgery unsupervised which would not be allowed in the NHS, and unfortunately the private sector remains unregulated in this regard.
Rather than being ashamed and dismissive of marketing and PR I would argue that we need to embrace it and encourage it amongst our colleagues, because if we are confident of our qualifications we should be only too pleased to shout about it and to let people know what we can offer.