Are Cosmetic Surgery Procedures Available on the NHS?

If you’re thinking that a trip to the GP might help you in your quest for bigger breasts or a shapelier nose, you could be sadly mistaken. The NHS only carries out cosmetic surgery under very strict criteria, for example if you have had a mastectomy, they will offer you reconstructive surgery.

In some cases, such as teenagers who are emotionally distressed because of teasing about ears which stick out significantly, it’s possible that the NHS can help. It’s safe to say that most plastic surgery has to be self-financed, though.

Health Authority Guidelines

All health authorities have a strict set of guidelines which they have to follow, and these guidelines state that non-essential surgery such as a nose jobs or breast enlargements can only be justified in a few selected cases. There is a patient information leaflet about NHS treatment, which gives some examples of procedures carried by the NHS and also describes the assessment and referral process.

Cosmetic surgery is only performed through the NHS if there are overriding psychological or physical reasons .The problem, if you’re trying to get the work done on the NHS, is that even if you feel that you have really good grounds to have the surgery paid for, the decision about whether you have overriding psychological or physical reasons for wanting surgery is something that will be decided by a consultant, who will probably ask you to have psychiatric counselling before agreeing to anything.

What are the Most Common Procedures?

The most common cosmetic procedures likely to be provided by the NHS are:

  • Breast implants if there is severe underdevelopment or asymmetry
  • Breast reduction if you are suffering with severe back or shoulder pain
  • Nose reshaping if you are having breathing problems
  • Abdominal surgery tummy tucks can carried out if you have excess skin following a pregnancy or essential abdominal surgery
  • Eyelid reduction if your vision is affected.

What Should I Do if I Think I Qualify?

The first thing you need to do is see your GP, who will talk through the options that are open to you, and should be able to tell you honestly what your chances are of getting the procedure through the NHS. If the GP thinks you are a good candidate, you’ll be referred to a cosmetic surgeon Your GP will also be able to give you some advice about surgery, and about any specific medical conditions that should be discussed with the surgeon.

Before you have any surgery, you will be expected to meet your surgeon or consultant at least twice to make sure that you’re clear about what to expect and what is realistically achievable. You’ll have a physical examination and your medical history will be checked so that the consultant can make sure that you’re suitable for the surgery.

NHS Surgeons

The quality of work that you can expect from an NHS surgeon will be high – all reconstructive surgery carried out on the NHS is performed by surgeons who have had extensive training and belong to the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRS) and the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

Unfortunately, if you just want to feel a bit better about yourself, and think that surgery is the way to go, you’re probably out of luck when it comes to funding. Cosmetic surgery is perceived as low priority by the NHS, and so any procedures that they consider to be carried out just for ‘beautification or rejuvenation, won’t be paid for.

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