Leading Harley Street Botox doctor suspended

Dr Mark Harrison
Image caption Dr Harrison said he had performed more than 50,000 remote consultations since 2005

A Harley street doctor exposed in a BBC London investigation encouraging nurses to order potentially dangerous Botox drugs in one person's name for use on another has been suspended.

Dr Mark Harrison will not be able to practise as a doctor for up 18 months pending a review.

The General Medical Council (GMC) will decide whether he will face a fitness to practise panel.

Botox can normally only be prescribed by doctors or designated professionals.

If Dr Harrison faces a panel he will be assessed by the GMC's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

It comes after the GMC banned doctors remotely prescribing injectable cosmetic medicines, such as Botox, on the phone, fax or online, without a face-to-face consultation.

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."

Remote prescribing was common practice at Dr Harrison's company Harley Aesthetics - one of the UK's largest purchasers of the anti-wrinkle drug.

Nurses who have independent prescribing qualifications are able to prescribe any drug, including Botox, without the involvement of a doctor.

And nurses without this qualification are legally allowed to inject the drug under a doctor's direction, but risk being struck off for doing this remotely, unless in an emergency.

Dr Mark Harrison, the director of Harley Aesthetics, had built up a network of hundreds of nurses who phoned him on his mobile from across the UK to receive authorisation to inject patients immediately with Botox.

They paid Dr Harrison £30 for each conversation.

After concerns were raised to the BBC, an undercover researcher secretly recorded one of Dr Harrison's training days and joined his team of nurses.

Dr Harrison was secretly recorded explaining how prescriptions for Botox could be obtained in the names of friends and family and the stock of drugs could be used on walk-in patients.

If nurses were unable to reach him on his mobile at any time when they had a patient expecting immediate treatment, he encouraged them to inject their patients anyway and he would phone the patient later.

'Little bit naughty'

"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," Dr Harrison was secretly recorded saying.

"That may be after the event, which is a little bit naughty."

The BBC then phoned him to see if this would really happen, claiming a new patient had already been injected.

Dr Harrison left a message on the voicemail of the "patient" and later sent a prescription.

Image caption Botox is a potentially dangerous medicine and can normally only be prescribed by a doctor

Senior doctors have said this amounts to a potential safety risk and would mean the nurse was breaking the law by injecting Botox without a prescription.

In a statement, Dr Harrison said he had performed more than 50,000 remote consultations since 2005, with no adverse affects on patient health.

He said the use of prescriptions in one person's name for the treatment of others was "common, almost universal practice throughout the aesthetics industry" and had "no consequence for patient safety".

Dr Harrison said the practice of a doctor phoning a patient after an injection "would never be encouraged and would never be acceptable for a new patient".

He added: "The decision to treat has been taken by the nurse and the doctor informed retrospectively."

Dr Harrison went on: "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, a leading cosmetic surgeon and former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, was shocked by the BBC's findings.

He said: "This is a wake-up call. It's not an appropriate way for providing a medical service."

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