Availability of cosmetic surgery 

Cosmetic surgery is rarely available through the NHS. There must be a major physical or psychological reason for needing the surgery. For example, in rare cases it may be required for health reasons.

Most people pay to have cosmetic surgery carried out privately because NHS resources are limited and waiting times are usually long.

GP referral

See your GP if you're considering having cosmetic surgery. They can discuss your options with you and advise you about the possibility of having the procedure on the NHS.

If your GP thinks cosmetic surgery may be a suitable treatment option for you, they will refer you to a consultant who will decide whether NHS-funded surgery is appropriate. Before making a decision, the consultant may ask you to have a psychological assessment.

If you decide to have cosmetic surgery at a private hospital or clinic, it's still advisable for you to be referred by a GP. They can give you general advice and information about surgery, and can discuss whether there's anything in your medical history that may need to be taken into account.

Being referred to a surgeon by your GP as a private patient also means the surgeon carrying out the procedure will have access to your medical records.

Cosmetic surgery through the NHS

Whether a cosmetic procedure is provided on the NHS is decided by local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

There are a few cases where a CCG may feel a cosmetic procedure should be available on the NHS, such as:

  • breast implants to treat severe underdevelopment or asymmetry (lopsidedness)
  • breast reduction to treat back pain or shoulder pain
  • nose reshaping (rhinoplasty) to treat breathing problems
  • tummy tucks to remove excess fat or skin after essential abdominal surgery
  • eyelid reduction to treat affected vision

However, NHS resources are limited and waiting times for these types of surgery are usually long.

Private treatment

As access to cosmetic surgery on the NHS is limited, most people decide to have private treatment.

All private companies that provide cosmetic surgery must register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which inspects all cosmetic surgery providers and reports on their findings.

Always ask to see the company's registration before agreeing to have cosmetic surgery at a private hospital or clinic.

It's also a good idea to make sure you speak to someone with a medical background about the procedure – such as a registered surgeon, doctor or nurse – before giving your consent to treatment.

Costs

The cost of private cosmetic treatment can vary depending on where you have treatment and the type of procedure being carried out.

As a general guide, average prices in the UK for some common procedures are:

  • breast augmentation – £5,000
  • breast reduction – £6,500
  • eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) – £3,500 to £4,500
  • ear reshaping (otoplasty or pinnaplasty) – £3,500
  • facelift – £6,500
  • liposuction – £4,000
  • nose job (rhinoplasty) – £4,500
  • tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) – £6,000

Make sure you find out about all the potential costs, including any extra costs for aftercare or additional treatment if something goes wrong, before agreeing to have surgery.

Cosmetic surgery abroad

If you're considering cosmetic surgery, you may be tempted to have treatment abroad because it can be cheaper than in the UK. However, you need to weigh this against the potential drawbacks.

For example, it can be more difficult to check whether a surgeon in another country has the proper experience and training, because other countries are regulated differently from the UK.

You should also consider the issue of what happens if something goes wrong. Some clinics overseas will not have someone in the UK for you to turn to if problems arise, and you may need to pay for travel back to the clinic for any corrections.

Read more about having cosmetic surgery abroad.

Page last reviewed: 09/04/2015

Next review due: 09/04/2017