Cosmetic surgery - Availability 

Availability of cosmetic surgery 

Cosmetic surgery is rarely available through the NHS. There must be overriding physical or psychological reasons for considering it as a treatment option.

For example, a clinical commissioning group (CCG) may decide that cosmetic surgery is required for health reasons (see below) in rare cases.

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 that 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. This is so that the surgeon carrying out the procedure has access to your medical records.

Cosmetic surgery through the NHS

There are a few cases where cosmetic surgery may 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

Due to the limited availability of cosmetic surgery on the NHS, most people who decide to have cosmetic surgery have private treatment.

All private companies that provide cosmetic surgery must register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Always ask to see the company’s registration before agreeing to have cosmetic surgery at a private hospital or clinic.

The CQC inspects all cosmetic surgery providers and reports on their findings.


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, prices in the UK for some common procedures are:

  • breast augmentation – £3,500 to £5,000
  • breast reduction – £3,500 to £5,500
  • eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) – £1,500 to £4,000
  • ear reshaping (otoplasty or pinnaplasty) – £2,500 to £3,000
  • facelift – £4,000 to £7,500
  • liposuction – £1,500 to £5,000
  • 'nose job' (rhinoplasty) – £3,000 to £4,000
  • 'tummy tuck' (abdominoplasty) – £4,000 to £6,500

Page last reviewed: 16/05/2013

Next review due: 16/05/2015


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The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Anonymoushp said on 12 November 2014

I cannot express enough how wrong the application process for funding for breast augmentation is and how do many people misconceive it to be so 'easy' to get funding. I am a 17 year old who has had asymmetrical breasts since the age of 12 and I have recently applied to get surgical correction of this issue after many years of being told 'they'll just even out' - and what I can tell you is that it is NOT easy.
I have seen two consultants who have both sympathised with me and agreed my breasts need correcting, however the panel of funding disagree. Part of the criteria for their decision making is if a padded bra can disguise the problem then the patient doesn't need surgical intervention. Yes, a padded bra can act as a mask on the OUTSIDE but it is what is underneath the mask that really counts. Why would I enter into a relationship knowing full well that I will not be able to spend intimate moments with my partner? I understand that people may think that it's society that needs to change, not my breasts, but how can we change a whole cult of breast-loving humans (which some of this love is inate) overnight? Therefore, the only solution is to fix the problem that CAN be fixed.
A 17 year old should be having an enjoyable life, not feeling trapped, depressed and lonely. People need to understand that breast augmentation is not for vain women who want to impress others, but for emotionally distressed women who believe their only chance of happiness is through this. It may seem ludicrous to others, but if you haven't been there you'll never understand.

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emrose2 said on 17 July 2014

From reading the previous comments I can see that most of them are misinformed. As a young adult who has been through the process and been rejected twice I know that it is not as easy as everyone thinks to get a breast augmentation. Before people start accusing me and saying I am taking advantage of NHS funds, I am not. I have stage 4 tubular breasts. I have not had any confidence my entire life. I have to look at these hideous things on my chest and still state that I am a woman when I am not. If a woman had her breasts removed due to cancer no one would question it. That is just as cosmetic. My breasts cannot even be classified as breasts and so even though my parents are hard working tax payers we have to go private which will costs thousands and not the max of 5000 it will be more as I nee three operations. Something this extensive and psychologically impacting on a girls childhood and teenage years should be treated. The guidance for funding should be stricted but in some areas such as ealing they are. I do not want an augmentation to please my boyfriend or any man it is to please myself so I can feel confident in being a woman. Jenna you are completely wrong no woman with saggy breasts gets funding. Mine are underdeveloped and a medical condition and they are still not funded. I think if it is a medial condition and cannot be helped by the person it should be treated as its out of their control. Saggy skin due to natural weight lose cannot be controlled so should be funded, liposuction because someone is fat is not as they have done that to themselves and probably will continue after, making it a complete waste of money. People should stop being so critical and look deeper into the system rather than simply reading cases in the paper.

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AmyHewitt said on 09 May 2014

Interesting that nobody mentions the money they spend on people who can't handle their drink and instead criticise people who may have genuine body image issues. and for the record, surgeons generally refuse to carry out surgery if the only reason is to please a guy, why is everyone so quick to assume that whatever a girl does to herself is to get male attention? the world doesn't revolve around them, so people should stop acting like it does. It's also hypocritical that people criticise tummy tucks on the NHS but don't criticise an NHS funded gastric bypass

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Jennaj89 said on 11 June 2013

Im sorry but in my opinion this is totally unacceptable! The NHS turn down seriously ill patients for life and death treatment because they say they don’t have the funds yet they see fit to give cosmetic surgery procedures to some of these woman who aren’t happy with their bodies as a result of having children! What a disgrace! Having children is a lifestyle choice, no one forces you to have them. Especially those who go on to have 4,5..6 etc you see my point. Unfortunately the scars and flabby bits that come with motherhood and child bearing is a natural thing we all have to live with and are aware of it before we choose to get pregnant. As a mother of 2 myself I totally understand how upsetting it can be to not in the body we once were before children but that’s life. Tax payers shouldn’t have to fork out thousands of pounds to correct something that was your own doing! That’s why you go private for cosmetic reasons. NHS also wants to tighten up a bit more, Unless its medical its a NO! Not one rule for some and another for someone else we all pay the tax just the same, I protest an all or nothing type system.. If its good enough for one person you must find the funding for everyone else if not you dont fund it! Simple.

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scarletS80 said on 31 March 2013

I agree, I was severely over weight after having 3 large 9lb+ babies, I worked hard, ate well and managed in just 14 months to lose 9 stone. My BMI was reduced to 23 from 40 and my dress size has gone from a 26 to a size 10. However I have an enormous amount of excess skin on my stomach, the rest of my body is ok as I worked and trained hard so it toned up as I lost the weight. I've visited my GP numerous times as it severly depresses me. I've worked so hard but look a mess still. I now work as a dance fitness instructor but won't and can't do floor exercises as my stomach hangs down like a sack. Who wants to see that? My GP says I need it but the nhs don't do it. With 3 children. Two of which are disabled, never in this world could I save to have it done privately. I know it's cosmetic and may seem selfish but it really does effect my mental health. I just wish I had other options.

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macnamee said on 10 March 2013

I find it interesting how society has changed so greatly. The NHS are willing to support adult females get breast implants (even though they are potentially very dangerous and harming to women) yet, otoplasty isn't. You are encouraging 50% of the population (men) to look at at a woman's breasts when people with protruding ears just want you to look at them in the face but they feel too sub concious about their ears to give direct eye contact back. Breasts stay hidden your ears don't... So, is there any wonder why sufferers feel so strongly about this? I'm just trying to make sense of this, welcome anyone's logical imput preferably one from the NHS. Define 'underdevelopment' for me also, many thanks.

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Rupinska25 said on 07 October 2012

I just want to say I don't think the nhs is fair when it comes to plastic surgery. After having 4 babies by c-section my stomach looks do horrible, I am 25 and have body of 60 year old woman. I lost all the weight by myself by eating healthy and exercising yet I get turned down to have a tummy tuck, why is it obese people get gastric bands on nhs followed by a tummy tuck?!! It's not fair, they should be made to lose weight first the healthy way. I suffer with anxiety, panic attacks and severe depression and I am told to sort my mental health first. If I had a tummy tuck it would take a lot of my depression away. It's not fair.

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