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GP leaders call for an end to ‘cowboy tattooists’

GP leaders have called for a clampdown on cowboy tattooists and piercers to protect people from health risks.

The RCGP and the BMA have given their support to Government proposals in Wales for a compulsory licensing system for practitioners of procedures such as tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and electrolysis.

Both organisations want it to be illegal for practitioners to carry out piercing of ‘intimate’ body parts defined as the genitals and the breast, including nipples, on under-16s.

The BMA also wants to see licensing linked to laser hair removal, chemical peels, dermal fillers, scarification/branding and sub-dermal implantation, while the college says it wants to see a ban on piercings of the naval, lip, nose and tongue among under-16s.

The organisations made their points in written evidence to the health and social care committee as part of a consultation on the Public Health (Wales) Bill, currently under consideration by the National Assembly for Wales.

Health minister Mark Drakeford argues that piercing and tattooing can result in nerve damage, swelling, infection and bleeding if poorly performed, and wants to see regulation of practitioners and their premises.

The RCGP states in its written evidence for this week’s hearing: ‘People are very often unaware of the risks related to these procedures due to infection, allergy or potential carcinogens in some inks used for tattoos. They are also unaware of the potential for life long scaring resulting in occasionally disfiguring or disabling deformity from procedures which have complications. They are also unaware that it is difficult to remove evidence of piercing or tattooing, when they no longer want the associated effect.’

The BMA evidence states: ‘We support the proposal to give ministers the power to amend the list of special procedures to which this licensing system will apply through regulations.’