While the UK has traditionally lagged behind the US when it comes to medical litigation, this appears to be changing. Litigation rates in the NHS and Private Practice are now reported to be rising by 20% every year.

Needless to say, this affects all of us working in the aesthetics industry. If you’ve been practising for a while, you’ve probably noticed the gradual increase in your indemnity costs year on year.

So in this climate of increasing litigation, what can you do to protect yourself?

Improving the patient consent process

A substantial proportion of medical litigation cases hinge on the issue of patient consent. So examining and, if necessary, improving the way you manage this crucial part of your practice is essential to safeguard yourself against future problems. 

Broadly speaking, in medical litigation cases the proceedings will focus on two questions:  

  • Were the risks of the procedure fully explained to, and understood by, the patient?
  • Were the risks, and the patient’s understanding of the risks, recorded accurately in the patient’s notes?

So it’s important that your approach to both these parts of the process is as efficient as possible.

Approaching patient consent for non-surgical procedures 

Taking a sufficiently thorough approach to patient consent will benefit both you and your patients.

For your patients, a better understanding of the benefits and risks of a treatment will help them to make a more informed decision. And for you, detailed, accurate and – importantly – legible consent will reduce any risk of litigation.

Here are five steps you can take to protect yourself and your business:

1. Information packs

Send out an information pack when patients enquire about a particular treatment. This should outline the treatment process, recovery period any possible complications, and include contact details they can refer back to should they have any concerns after treatment.

2. Discuss and document

During a consultation, take time to discuss all the pros, cons and potential risks of the treatment, and crucially, make sure you document this in the patient’s notes.

3. Seek specific consent for photos

Under standard medical practice guidelines, practitioners must not show before and after photographs to other patients or publish them without specific written consent from the patient. If photographs are taken, obtain specific consent from your patient to use them – ideally on a dedicated form.

4. Detailed patient consent form

Make reference to your information pack in your general patient consent form. On the form, specifically ask the patient to confirm they have read and understood the information pack. And make sure you ask patients to sign a new consent form before each and every treatment. 

5. Detailed patient notes

A patient’s notes should reflect the detailed discussion that took place before their treatment, so be as thorough as is practical. Patient notes should also be used to document the completion of each stage of the consent process.

As aesthetic professionals, we need to ensure we spend sufficient time educating patients about the risks and benefits of treatment before going ahead – and documenting everything we’ve discussed.

Rushed and incomplete consultation notes leave us vulnerable to litigation (warranted or not), so it’s impossible to be too thorough when it comes to keeping patient records. New technology (apps, tablets) has allowed many of us to streamline the process, and this may be a good investment for your practice. But whichever tools and methods you choose, diligence and detail are key.

Cosmetic Courses provides all delegates with access to downloadable consent form templates and other useful documentation. For information on training with us, give the team a call on 01844 390110 or email [email protected].