There has also been a growth in private clinics using “fly in, fly out” surgeons, which can leave patients with little comeback should anything go wrong.
The Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS) has called for the urgent regulation of the sector to protect patients who may be damaged by work carried out by non-specialist surgeons.
The IAPS made its call as hundreds of surgeons from Britain attended the British Association of Plastic Reconstruction and Aesthetic Surgeons meeting in Dublin — the first time the event has been held outside of London.
Work on legislation to regulate the sector there is at a much more advanced stage than it is here, with the IAPS claiming many Irish people were having work done at private clinics by medical doctors with no specialist training.
IAPS secretary Dr Peter Meagher said: “All the problems that they [the British association] are having are mirrored 100% in this country.”
Chief among the issues is the lack of regulation, which means any medically qualified doctor can open a plastic surgery practice, rather than undergo specialised training.
“They seldom or ever are on the specialist register,” said Dr Meagher.
The IAPS website lists 28 qualified members and some new members were recently added, but Dr Meagher said there were many more private clinics operating around the country.
“The surgeons who are operating in these cosmetic clinics are ‘fly in, fly out’ surgeons. This has very obvious potential for problems.”
He said some of the clinics were not open at weekends, and surgeons and other staff may not be available to deal with any follow-up complications from a surgical procedure.
However, he said it was “hard to tell” how many clinics were operating around the country in which the surgeons were not IAPS-affiliated, or how many patients had had problems with the surgery they underwent at these clinics.
He said there was anecdotal evidence of patients having to attend emergency departments after a surgical procedure, while IAPS members were sometimes visited by patients who had already undergone treatment elsewhere.
Cases can be taken against clinics through the Medical Council or through the courts, but Dr Meagher said regulation was needed.
He said he had held preliminary meetings with Fine Gael senator Colm Burke, who is drafting the Medical Practitioners Bill.
He said the number of plastic surgery procedures had decreased “significantly” in recent years due to the impact of the recession, but added that this meant people could be swayed by offers at cut-price clinics where the surgeon may not have adequate credentials.