No longer the preserve
of the rich and famous, cosmetic surgery and laser skin treatment, has become a more socially
acceptable way to hold back the years or amend your appearance.
five years has seen a 50 per cent increase in procedures carried out in the UK. However its popularity has
unfortunately meant the rise of unprofessional clinics and the
introduction of aggressive marketing techniques to entice customers.
Cosmetic surgery may be big business,
but its offerings, from breast reductions, liposuction, and laser
skin treatment, to the
seemingly straightforward Botox injections, are potentially dangerous
medical procedures that need to be carried out by experts. Going to the
clinic with the 'gift of the gab' can have serious consequences.
Where do I start?
Your GP should be your first port of
call if you are considering surgery. He or she can recommend a reputable
surgeon or practitioner in your area. While certain operations can be carried out on the
NHS, for example, a breast reduction if the size and weight of your
breasts is resulting in back problems, it is more likely that your
GP's referral will be to a local surgeon in a private hospital or
Although a GP should be happy to talk
to you about cosmetic surgery and laser skin treatment, some people don't like to ask as they are
worried about wasting a doctor's time when they're not ill.
If you feel
embarrassed to discuss procedures with your GP, it can be tempting to
answer an advert in the back of a magazine or on the internet, you're
anonymous, these clinics will be used to requests like yours, and the
adverts picturing amazing transformations can be incredibly persuasive.
But according to Douglas McGeorge, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and member
of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS),
responding to this type of advertising is definitely not the best way to
find your surgeon:
"Most reputable clinics don't use
adverts in the back of newspapers encouraging people to come along. If
you see any adverts with pictures of 'before and after', be very wary of
going there because the chances are they are not mainstream procedures."
What type of research should I do?
If you want to avoid your GP, you'll
need to invest some time in research. Fully trained practitioners
should be listed on the General Medical Council's specialist register.
You can check this on the GMC website.
All doctors setting up as cosmetic surgeons for the first time from
April 2002 must also be on the GMC's specialist register. BAAPS also
have a list of people who are recognised as formerly trained.
newspapers, magazines and the internet, noting down the names of any
practitioners who are mentioned or quoted. Learn as much as you can about the
kind of procedure you think might suit you.
Talk to friends. Someone who has had a
positive experience of a similar operation is the most reliable
advertisement for a good surgeon. Bear in mind that while some people
will be happy to discuss their new nose / increased bra size, others may
be reluctant to talk openly about plastic surgery.
When you've found out as much as you
can about the practitioner and clinic, book a consultation. The first
practitioner you see doesn't have to be the one you go with. It's really important
that you feel comfortable with him / her as you'll need to talk honestly
about what you are hoping to achieve and why. And of course some
operations require more intimate conversations and examinations than
Do compare prices, but don't make a
decision based on this factor alone. Don't rush your research, invest
plenty of time in your choice of surgeon and procedure. Even for a minor
operation, there can be serious risks involved and a hasty decision
could result in irreparable damage.
What should I ask?
Don't be afraid to ask a
practitioner about his / her qualifications, experience and specialities. You could check
whether they give lectures or have written articles on their subject.
Think of all the questions you have
about the procedure you're interested in and write them down. Make sure
you're satisfied with the answers you've been given before the
consultation is over.
Ask about everything that is going to
be done to you and insist they be frank about any possible risks or side
effects associated with the procedure. Don't forget to find out what
sort of aftercare will you need.
What should I look out for?
When you are booking a consultation
with a clinic, make sure you see the actual practitioner who will be
operating on you. In some clinics, the first person to see any
prospective patients is a 'counsellor'. If a counsellor is trying to
sell you a procedure, you should be suspicious, especially if
they are trying to persuade you to have more treatment than you originally
planned. Be sure about what you want to have done and stick to it.
Check the facilities in the clinic, are there doctors in the building all the time? What other operations do
they carry out there? Make sure that the clinic you are in is the one
where you will have your operation. Be wary if after you've had a
consultation and paid a fee you are then taken somewhere else to have
Bear in mind that prices do vary. To
give an accurate price, a practitioner will need to have a full consultation
with you and gather all the facts that may affect the length and
complexity of the procedure. If someone is offering it quicker and
cheaper, there is usually a reason.
When you've decided on a practitioner, leave
plenty of time after the consultation before you book in for a
procedure. Don't feel under any pressure to make a quick decision; a
reputable clinic will encourage you to take some time to think it
what can I do if I'm not happy with
The first thing to do if are not happy
with your experience is to take the matter up with the practitioner who
carried out the work. Your practitioner may offer to correct the work with
further procedures or to return the fees you paid. Another option would be
to ask a different practitioner to look at the work you've had done and
check whether you have cause for complaint. A reputable practitioner will be
able to say if what has happened is a recognised complication or
limitation of a procedure that should have been discussed with you at a
consultation, or if the practitioner was at fault.
For example, in a proportion of people
who have breast enlargements, the scar that forms around implants may
tighten, making the breast go rounder and firmer. According to Douglas
McGeorge, this is a genuine limitation of healing that will affect a
proportion of people. It should be identified as a risk before surgery,
but it doesn't mean the surgery wasn't carried out correctly.
If the practitioner giving a second opinion
says your procedure hasn't been done professionally, they might be
prepared to correct the work themselves or to refer you to another
practitioner known to be competent in doing so. Except for a few rare cases,
most problems in cosmetic surgery can be sorted out amicably with a good
If you are not happy with the way in
which your clinic or practitioner has dealt with your concerns then you may
wish to take the matter further. The Healthcare Commission can take
action against a hospital, clinic or salon if they think the
establishment breaches the standards it should meet. The Advertising
Standards Authority can advise about how to complain about misleading or
offensive advertising. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory
Authority can help with complaints about prescription-only medicines
such as Botox or about implants (for example, breast implants which are
regulated as medical devices) that have not performed as well as they