The act of prescribing Botox over the phone or internet is to be banned.
As a result, doctors will no longer be able to make remote prescriptions unless they have met with their patients face to face.
The BBC has learned this after going undercover to investigate one of the biggest buyers of Botox in the UK.
Botox, an aesthetic medicine, is an effective means of gaining younger looking skin. The drug works by relaxing facial muscles, leading to a smoother appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, Botox injections should only be given by professional aesthetic doctors.
The General Medical Council (GMC) has announced new rules will be published this month to prevent doctors remotely prescribing Botox and other injectable cosmetic medicines.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said: “There are good reasons why these are prescription-only medicines and we believe doctors should assess any patient in person before issuing a prescription of this kind.”
The BBC investigation relates to the practices of Dr Mark Harrison, the director of Harley Aesthetics, who created a big network of nurses who call him on his mobile to gain authorisation to inject patients straightaway with Botox, paying him £30 per conversation.
Concerns were raised to the BBC, as nurses with a prescribing qualification are able to prescribe any drug, including Botox, without referring to a doctor, but nurses who don’t hold this qualification can still legally inject the drug when supervised by a doctor – but face being struck off for doing this remotely, except in an emergency.
An undercover researcher secretly filmed one of Dr Harrison’s training days and joined his team of nurses.
During filming, Dr Harrison was seen explaining how prescriptions for Botox could be obtained in the names of family members and friends and this stock of drugs could then be used on walk-in patients.
If nurses couldn’t get through to him on his mobile, they were encouraged to go ahead anyway with the Botox treatment and he’d call the patient later on.
Dr Harrison said during the secret filming: “If you can’t get a signal, what you might do is do the treatment and then you ring through with the details and the phone number and we guarantee we’ll always ring the client after the event.”
He added, “That may be after the event, which is a little bit naughty.”
To confirm whether this would happen in reality, the BBC later called him and claimed a new patient had already been injected – Dr Harrison then left a message for the “patient” and sent a prescription.
Senior doctors have advised that this method poses a potential risk to patients and the nurse would effectively be breaking the law by giving Botox without a prescription.
Dr Harrison said in a statement that he’d delivered more than 50,000 remote consultations since 2005, with no detrimental impact on patient health.
According to him, prescribing in one person’s name for use on others was “common, almost universal practice throughout the aesthetics industry” with “no consequence for patient safety”.
He added that the practice of a doctor phoning a patient after an injection “would never be encouraged and would never be acceptable for a new patient”.
“The decision to treat has been taken by the nurse and the doctor informed retrospectively.
“I can confirm that I take my professional and moral obligations to both the patients who have treatments and the nurses who use the service extremely seriously.”
Dr Nigel Mercer, leading cosmetic surgeon and former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons described the BBC’s findings as a “wake-up call”.
Botox injections should always be administered by a professional aesthetic doctor and if you’re considering this treatment make sure you have a consultation first and are offered the appropriate levels of both pre- and post-treatment care.