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Regulation of tattoo shops ‘not fit for purpose’

Infection control in shops offering tattoos, piercings and other non-surgical cosmetic surgeries is inadequate.
27 June 2019 , Katie Coyne

Infection control in shops offering tattoos, piercings and other non-surgical cosmetic surgeries is inadequate and needs an overhaul, says a report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

There has been a surge in the number of people having these procedures. In the decade up to 2014 it rose by 174%. Nowadays around 20% of us have tattoos.

Yet one in five people who had a tattoo, cosmetic piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis in the last five years experienced negative effects – the most common being burning or swelling.

The RSPH is now calling for a range of measures including UK-wide licensing, an under-18s ban, mandatory hygiene qualifications and a requirement to report infections to public protection agencies.

The Skins and Needles report also sampled the public’s views and found 90% thought infection control qualifications should be mandatory.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: “The legislation and regulation of providers of these services, which ultimately protects the public, is markedly different across the UK and in some areas is not fit for purpose.

“This matters because one in five people are still at very real risk of sepsis and other complications.”

The RSPH wants to see all UK health systems follow the example of Wales with a requirement for an infection control qualification as part of licensing.

CIEH policy manager Tamara Sandoul said: “The regulation of cosmetic treatments in England is completely inadequate and this is putting public safety at risk.

“The loopholes in the powers available to local authorities, the lack of public awareness and the lack of national standards and training requirements in this sector mean that members of the public are not protected or aware of the dangers of some of these treatments.

“We welcome the increasing interest of public health bodies in this area and call on the Government to introduce a UK-wide licensing scheme for all risky cosmetic treatments.”

Consultant plastic surgeon David Gateley of DRG Plastic Surgery in Harley Street said: “In the same way that the plastic surgery industry is regulated, any invasive procedures should be undertaken only by qualified practitioners and in a sterile environment with the appropriate facilities – in case anything goes wrong and to avoid infection and complication.

“There are far too many ‘grey areas’ in the realm of aesthetic and therapeutic procedures which need to be far clearer and more tightly regulated for the protection of patients.”

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