An inquiry will examine the scandal over faulty breast implants, imported from France, and wider concerns about whether lax regulation has allowed a “cowboy” market among British clinics.
The Commons health select committee will examine the help and advice given to women both before and after surgery.
MPs will consider whether private clinics should be required to provide counselling for those seeking cosmetic changes, to prevent firms taking advantage of those suffering from deep-seated psychological problems, such as body dysmorphia, and those with unrealistic expectations.
Dr Daniel Poulter, a Conservative member of the committee, and practising doctor, said MPs were concerned that health watchdogs in the UK had failed to keep pace with the practices they were regulating.
He said: “We have an industry which has grown at a great pace over the last 10 years or so and the breast implants scandal has helped to shine a light on wider issues about the way the cosmetic surgery industry works.
“The current system leaves too much potential for cowboy surgery, and for women to be exploited.”
In March, MPs will hold a short inquiry into the scandal over the faulty implants made by Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), before opening a wider investigation into the way cosmetic surgery and non-surgical procedures – such as Botox and dermal fillers – are regulated and marketed in this country.
Dr Poulter said: “In other parts of the world, especially parts of United States, there is a much greater emphasis on ensuring psychological support and counselling before surgery, to ensure that women are not suffering from some kind of dysmorphic disorder.
“We will look at whether this should be required in this country – especially in cases where women are asking for repeat procedures.”
He said a growing celebrity culture increased pressures on women over their appearance, meaning some were likely to become obsessed and distorted in their views.
“Programmes like [reality TV show]‘The only way is Essex’ and celebrity culture and glossy magazines have glamorised cosmetic procedures and the body beautiful – but in the same way that they have had an impact on anorexia, they are also linked with psychological problems, and obsessions about appearance and body dysmorphia,” he warned.
A national audit of cosmetic surgery in the UK found that just one third of clinics offered counselling or any psychological evaluation of those seeking surgery to alter their appearance.
Among those which did offer such a service, the vast majority left such work to surgeons and nurses, rarely involving clinical psychologists trained in the field.
The investigation by the National Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death uncovered aggressive sales tactics used by scores of clinics, flouting guidance from industry bodies, which is not mandatory.
Almost half of 193 private clinics surveyed had no “cooling off” period between a consultation and giving consent, despite the advice from the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services that there should be a two-week window.
Dr Poulter said the Commons inquiry would look at whether regulators should clamp down on sales tactics used in an increasingly competitive market.
Figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, whose surgeons do a third of all cosmetic surgery procedures, show that the number of operations has more than doubled in six years, to more than 38,000 operations.
The Commons inquiry will look at the skills and qualifications of those carrying out surgery, and the rules governing non-surgical procedures, such as Botox and dermal fillers, which can be administered by those with no medical training at all. Close to 160 injectable fillers are certified for sale in the UK, compared with just six in the United States.
Experts have warned that lax regulation of the anti-ageing injections market, means conditions are ripe for disaster.
MPs will also examine the “aftercare” given to women after surgery, amid concerns that firms which performed more than half of 40,000 breast augmentation operations using faulty PIP implants, are refusing to redo the surgery, despite pressure from health ministers.
Harley Medical Group, Transform, The Hospital Group and Linia have said they will not routinely remove and replace implants, and that the fault lies with British medical regulators, who allowed the PIP implants, made from industrial silicone, to be marketed in this country for almost a decade.
Dr Poulter said: “One of the major concerns that has emerged is about record keeping in the private sector, and about the attitude of the companies, about the responsibility they hold to look after the women they treated. we are also concerned about whether the regulators have fallen behind the industry they are regulating.”
The MP, who also works as a hospital doctor, said medical devices which are placed in the body – whether for cosmetic or medical purposes – did not seem to be monitored as closely as medicines.
He said: “When it comes to drugs, the safety is terribly highly controlled. our concern is that when it comes to medical devices and implants, there is not the same rigorous and independent analysis to protect the patient.”
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has said the NHS will pay to remove and replace PIP implants for up to 3,000 women – mainly cancer survivors – who received them from the health service.
He said the NHS would also remove – but not replace – implants for women refused help from the private firm which carried out the operation, and that the Government would pursue payment from such operators.
However, many lawyers believe the Government would be unlikely to recover such costs, as there was no direct contract between the state and the firms which did the operations.
Earlier this week, ministers announced a probe into the PIP fiasco, a review of all private cosmetic surgery clinics to check they are meeting basic standards, and a wider investigation into regulation of the industry.
The Government launched an advertising campaign on Saturday to limit demand for NHS surgery to remove faulty breast implants.
The adverts, to run in most national newspapers this weekend, will emphasise there is “no clear evidence” that the French-made implants cause more harm than other brands, and say advice from experts is that women do not need to have them removed, unless they cause symptoms.
However, it also states, in large type: “The NHS will support women with PIP breast implants.”
On Saturday, more than 60 women with PIP implants joined a march to London’s Harley Street to protest against clinics which are refusing to remove and replace the devices.
The group chanted slogans and carried placards which read “Toxic Time Bombs” and “Health before Wealth” before reaching the offices of Harley Medical Group and Transform.
Danni Starr, 33, an accounts clerk from Sydenham, south London, said: “we feel totally fobbed off. I feel so angry that these companies can make all this money from doing this surgery, and then when there is a problem, they can’t afford to help us.”
Gemma Pepper, 29, from Darlington, County Durham, said she was distraught when she found out there was a problem with the implants.
She said she was feeling ready to “fight back” after meeting dozens more women affected by the PIP scandal, during the demonstration which was organised via Facebook.
Stacey Williams, 25, from Portsmouth, said clinics which have gone into liquidation since fitting the implants and reopened under a different name were offering no support.
Sarah Niven, 39, from Blandford in Dorset, had PIP implants fitted in 2004, after months looking into the pros and cons of different devices.
Now the mother of one is “desperate” to have them removed, but has not been offered free removal and replacement by the clinic which did the operations, and does not know where turn next.
Gemma Garrett paid £4,500 for PIP implants at a private clinic in London in 2008. The model, 30, from Belfast, contacted the clinic last year after a lump appeared in her left breast but was told the warranty had expired. She was later told by a specialist that an implant had ruptured.
Miss Garrett, a former Miss great Britain, paid £11,000 to have both implants removed, but her surgeon told her some of the silicone had fused into her breasts, causing lasting complications.
Cowboy tactics of cosmetic firms to come under fire from MPs