Cosmetic Tourism - The only destination should be Edinburgh
For centuries the wealthy have travelled abroad for medical treatment. The ancient Greeks were the first to travel for health care, while the Victorians would travel to 'take the waters' in the spas and sanitariums of Europe
Nowadays this practice has become increasingly popular due to the less expensive prices charged for surgery abroad, particularly in the Far East and Eastern Europe. This is particularly true for plastic surgery. It is difficult to know exactly how many people from the United Kingdom avail of Cosmetic Tourism', but it would appear to be sufficiently popular for agencies to have sprouted up on the internet, advertising all-inclusive packages to overseas destinations for all forms of treatment. With these agencies offering deals for sun, sand, sight-seeing and safaris abroad at an all in price, cheaper than the cost of surgery alone in the UK, it is easy to see how travelling abroad for surgery might be more attractive and become more accessible to those of us of a more modest income. But what may appear to be a ?bargain' may ultimately be more costly. The NHS will treat life-threatening complications for free, but other cosmetic complications which may require revisional surgery may not be covered, and may require you to return to your clinic abroad, or pay for private corrective surgery in the UK while taking an extended time off work.
Early complications such as infection or wound breakdown are seen in the first week after surgery. Flights themselves, and certain surgeries may each predispose a patient to blood clots in the legs, or more seriously, the lungs, which may be fatal. And so flying home should not be recommended for up to 2 weeks after certain operations.
There have been a number of articles in the plastic surgery journals, and both the British Associations of Aesthetic Surgeons (BAAPS) and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (BAPRAS) have carried out surveys in an attempt to quantify the number of patients seeking cosmetic surgery abroad, and those suffering complications after such surgery. The problem appears to be of a sufficient magnitude for BAAPS and BAPRAS to have dedicated several pages on their websites to patient advice, in an attempt to circumvent the common problems and pitfalls, prior to patients taking up these offers.
To summarise the general advice to patients:
- Research the procedure you think you may need adequately, prior to embarking on it. Sites such as Be You Cosmetic Surgery will give you the latest information needed about the different cosmetic procedures. About 40% of the cosmetic holiday websites do not include details of the actual surgical procedures offered, and 90% do not mention any risks or complications.
- Does the agency offer a face to face consultation with your surgeon prior to surgery? Less than half of the current websites offer a UK-based consultation prior to travel and most only offer on-line or telephone consultations. In the UK, most surgeons would feel that it is important to build a relationship and trust between patient and surgeon prior to surgery. That way your surgery can be tailored specifically to your individual needs. Also all aspects of the surgery and aftercare including potential complications and downtime (the amount of time you should allocate for recovery), can be discussed. Finally, a second consultation is usually offered a few weeks later to allow you to reflect on what has been discussed, along with a ?cooling off' period should you wish to change your mind.
- Research your clinic as well as your surgeon to find out if they are fully accredited or qualified. Many clinics may be privately owned, making it difficult to check on which surgeons or anaesthetists are likely to carry out your surgery, and what credentials or training they have had. In the UK, all private clinics and hospitals are regulated by the Healthcare Commission, who regularly inspect the standards of health and hygiene. Anyone can set up a practice to treat patients, and regulations may not be as strict abroad as they are in the UK. Check to see if the person performing your surgery is in fact a doctor/surgeon, and that people in the clinic/hospital can speak English. In the UK you should choose a surgeon who is on the Plastic Surgery Specialist Register and is a full member of BAPRAS which means they will have had full specialist plastic surgery training.
- Be wary of sites that offer free consultations, and those that ask for a booking fee or a non-refundable deposit. You should have the right to cancel your surgery right up to the last minute without any financial pressures.
- Do not be seduced by agencies that advertise a holiday in combination with surgery. Most activities such as swimming, sunbathing, or sightseeing are inadvisable after surgery.
- No operation is entirely risk free, and complications can arise even in patients undergoing surgery in the UK. However, in the UK, your surgeon is on hand to provide the necessary aftercare in the event of any complications. Make sure you ask what follow up will be offered to you and what measures will be taken in the event of complications. Many overseas clinics do not appear to have any mechanisms in place for dealing with complications, while some will have a local agreement with someone in the UK in the event of problems, although in most cases this will be a nurse or GP rather than a plastic surgeon. If complications were to arise after surgery by a UK plastic surgeon, you would usually be seen by the surgeon who operated on you. Returning overseas for revisional surgery under the care of your original surgeon may incur extra costs which are not covered by the original tour agency.
- Ascertain if the devices or implants used are tested and approved. Do they carry a Kite mark, or equivalent guarantee that they are safe? A recent survey carried out by BAAPS showed that there were increasing numbers of patients seen in NHS hospitals in the UK with complications following cosmetic surgery abroad. These numbers appear to be on the increase despite the credit crunch, proving that people are very keen to have cosmetic surgery despite the recession, but are not willing to pay the prices charged in the UK. A survey of the general public showed that almost 50% of people asked would consider cosmetic surgery, and 97% of those would consider treatment abroad. Nearly 80% said they would use the NHS if they encountered complications after surgery, because they trusted the NHS and knew they would be treated free of charge. Of the patients who had already had surgery abroad, 70% were dissatisfied with their aftercare and 67% would not consider cosmetic surgery outside the UK if money were no object. The reason cosmetic surgery is more expensive in the UK than abroad is due to several reasons.
BAAPS Consumer Safety Guidelines
BAPRAS Risks of Surgery Abroad
- Cosmetic surgery is much more heavily regulated in the UK compared to many countries overseas. Regulation by the Healthcare Commission and the General Medical Council is costly and is charged to the clinics/hospitals and the surgeons.
- Cosmetic surgeons operating in the private sector must also ensure that they are covered by medical malpractice insurance in case of any serious complications. This indemnity ensures that the patient is fully protected, and will receive the best care.
- Many private hospitals in the UK offer an all inclusive price to their patients which includes the cost of the surgery, the hospital stay, the follow-up treatment and care and any revisional surgery that may need to be performed within a 6 week period after the initial operation.
- The cost of living in the UK is higher, along with the cost of staff and medical supplies. The full version of these lists are available on the following websites:
So why travel abroad, when you could travel to beautiful Edinburgh for your cosmetic surgery. You will meet your team, all of whom speak English, you will be able to discuss all aspects of your surgery in as much detail as you wish prior to proceeding. You will be offered the opportunity to return for a second consultation free of charge in order to ask more questions or discuss things further and you will not be placed under any obligation or pressure. And, when you are ready to proceed to surgery, you can rest assured that you are in the hands of a professional organisation that is carefully monitored and strictly regulated by the Healthcare Commission, and that your surgeon has been fully trained in the UK, is on the Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery and is a full member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).
Contact the experts in Plastic Surgery in Scotland for more details about your cosmetic surgery, and plan your cosmetic tourism in Edinburgh.