Posted: July 1st, 2013

By: Portia Lovering

Cosmetic Surgery in the UK or abroad?

A research team at the University of Leeds which is delivering the ESRC funded research project, “Sun, Sea, Sand and Silicone” analyses two countries in detail as sources of cosmetic surgery tourists, the UK and Australia (as well as some tourists from China and Japan) and considers a number of popular cosmetic surgery tourism destinations including Spain, Thailand, Poland Korea, Tunisia & Malaysia.


A popular and controversial topic for conversation are the rights which patients have and the issue of regulation for cosmetic surgery abroad, if it goes wrong.  With websites such as “Treatment  Abroad” the prospective patient is now provided with numerous adverts contained on the site, advertising prices of procedures which appear to be half the price of UK operations , or so it may seem. There website boasts numerous destinations which offer these “cheap” procedures, however there are always the fundamental questions which need to be asked:


  • Is the surgeon qualified?
  • Is the surgeon competent in the procedure?
  • Is the operation performed in a safe environment?
  • Will the surgeon and staff be able to speak English?
  • What rights do I have if the operation goes wrong?
  • Can I get my money back, if I change my mind?  

Unfortunately such information can be difficult to obtain, without direct answers being provided to the questions asked by the enquirers, therefore resulting in the various information becoming confusing.


The most common cosmetic surgery tourism destinations for British patients were The Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Cyprus and Turkey and according to a survey of patients who had undergone surgery abroad, the most important factors to selecting a clinic or surgeon,  were: the quality of doctor, quality of clinic and price. As per the survey carried out on some patients, these were some of the issues raise

Dissatisfaction with outcome

  • “My nipples were put in the totally wrong place.”
  • “I am leaking fluid and have been on antibiotics due to infection for the last 10 wks”
  • “I was left with a major scar”.

Dissatisfaction with aftercare

  • “I was asked to go home the next morning.”
  • “No aftercare or follow up.”
  • “I was not advised of after care and procedure.”

What happens when it goes wrong?

The reality is that cosmetic surgery can go wrong, whether performed abroad or at home and a spokesman for BAPRAS said that the NHS is currently providing ‘a safety net’ for patients going overseas for cheap deals on cosmetic surgery, which uses finances for patients waiting for reconstructive surgery following other traumas or post cancer treatment.

It is thought that this trend is likely to rise in line with the increase of cosmetic tourism and this may have an impact on waiting times for other plastic surgery procedures, where the NHS has already had to cap resources in this area anyway.


The recent research published as per the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery found most patients required corrective treatment after breast enlargement (Augmentation), which is generally the most commonly performed cosmetic procedure.  There were 24% which required treatment following a tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty), 15% had breast reductions that had gone wrong and 10% had gone abroad for a face or neck lift which then needed corrective surgery.


Responsibility for who provides the aftercare for cosmetic surgery carried out privately in the UK lies with the plastic surgeon conducting the procedure, however this is not necessarily the case for  surgery performed abroad. Therefore a patient returning from cosmetic surgery abroad, will normally expect to the NHS to provide aftercare, which inevitably removes the funding away from other patients.


A spokesman for the Department of Health said it had already made clear that the NHS was only there to deal with emergencies in such cases and also stated that: “People are free to have cosmetic or other private surgery abroad if they wish to.  However, we strongly advise people to do their research and make sure that they are clear about prices, procedures, recovery times, aftercare and what happens in the event that the treatment goes wrong.”


For accurate information on cosmetic surgery procedures performed by our UK based experienced Plastic Surgeons in Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire, call Melissa today on 07793 738456 at LIverpool Cosmetic Clinic.

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