Meet the British Plastic Surgeon
Considered to be a highly recommended face lift surgeon in the UK with an excellent reputation for all cosmetic surgery procedures, Nigel Mercer received his medical degree at Bristol University in 1980, and four years later passed his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. During his plastic surgery training, he worked in hospitals in London, Bristol, Glasgow and Canada, and completed his Master’s degree in Plastic surgery in 1993. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 1997. With Nigel Mercer’s presidency at the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) coming to a close after two successful years, BITB finds out about the highs and lows of being at the forefront of UK cosmetic aesthetic industry regulation.
What has your time as president of BAAPS meant to you? What has it taught you?
Being BAAPS President is a major honour, and it means to me that my colleagues felt that I could give something to the Association. A group of people who you respect greatly putting such trust in you is quite something.
I have learnt that the world is a fast changing place in cosmetic surgery, and that the UK is used as a testing ground for any treatment because we have very lax regulation of devices (fillers) and surgical procedures. Perhaps my greatest shock is that patents, who would not walk off the street in a foreign country and have a hair cut on holiday, will pay thousands of pounds to a stranger and have major life threatening surgery with out blinking an eye in a country they may never have been to! Madness….
What has been your proudest moment? What has been your scariest moment?
Apart from being installed as President, there were two equally proud moments. The first was when we won our case with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The Harley Medical Group complained to the ASA about our advert, “Be sure. Be safe”, with the picture of a scalpel and advice to speak to BAAPS for good advice. This was from a clinic that have been taken to the ASA by the public for their un-scrupulous adverts, one of which was defaced on the Tube by the public! The ASA found in our favour! That was a victory for common sense after a lot of hard work in a very short time. I am also very proud to have helped develop PMP Insurance for surgeons, which based on the BAAPS audit. This is a major development for patent safety, because surgeons with poor claims histories now pay much more that those with fewer claims. We used to all pay the same, believe it or not.
A letter from the Chairman of IHAS (who, I believe, is also the Group Medical Director of BUPA) about me in the Independent newspaper in September this year is perhaps the scariest event, because it strongly suggests that large commercial cosmetic clinics do not want to hear arguments that put patient safety before their profit margins. The attack does not refute any on the concerns BAAPS has raised to them in writing and in discussion. The logical conclusion is that they seem to want to complete turning surgical operations into a commodity. That is dangerous for the public and terrifies me.
How do you think the industry has changed since your appointment two years ago?
The pace of change is much quicker. Perhaps it is the recession causing clinics to fight for market share. Despite recommendations about marketing standards direct marketing to the public goes un-checked and un-regulated. Cosmetic surgery should be about patient safety, not making a fast buck and what you can get away with.
What advice would you give to people looking for a good surgeon?
Please, please, please do your home work. Do not choose a clinic or a country. Ask your GP who is good near you. You don’t necessarily have to travel to get excellence. Avoid marketing, which includes ‘free consultations’, time limited and BOGOF offers and up front non-returnable deposits like the plague. Check your potential surgeon on the BAAPS website and the GMC Specialist register. It takes two clicks! When you see them, ask what their complication rate is? Every surgeon has complications, they are unavoidable (e.g. 1:25 people will form bad scars, no matter how neatly the wound is closed), but the surgeon should do everything to minimise the risk and must tell you what his/her complication rate is. If they don’t walk out. Even if you decide to go ahead, walk out of the door and take two weeks to think it over. The bottom line is, if you can’t live with having a complication and a result you don’t like….DON’T DO IT!”
What’s next for you?
Binding European Regulations in Aesthetic Surgery are being developed and I am leading on those with a small team from BAAPS. They will be incredibly important for patients and for the industry. They will put safety before profit. That will keep me busy enough, but in the last year I have taken only one week of proper holiday, and hopefully there will not be 30-40 emails a day that need to be seen to! Don’t get me wrong. I have really enjoyed being BAAPS President and I hope I have done some good and improved safety for the public and BAAPS members.