The NHS guide to cosmetic procedures

Choosing a surgeon for cosmetic surgery

If you've decided to have cosmetic surgery, you'll need to choose a surgeon with the appropriate training, skills and experience to carry out the procedure.

This page runs through all the things you'll need to do and the questions you should ask to make sure the surgeon is suitably qualified and experienced.

You should:

Talk to your GP

When looking for a surgeon to carry out a cosmetic surgical procedure, your GP may be the best person to contact first. 

It's a good idea to talk to them about any health issues you have and whether these might affect or be affected by surgery. Your GP may also know who is an appropriately trained and experienced surgeon in the local area.

Check the surgeon and hospital are registered

The surgeon must, as a minimum, be registered with the GMC and be fully insured to carry out the procedure in the UK.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) recommend choosing a surgeon who is on the GMC's specialist register in the area of practice relevant to this procedure.

Check that the person who advises you about the surgery is the surgeon who will actually perform or supervise the procedure.

You should also check that the provider – the hospital, company or clinic – is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is the independent regulator of health services in England.

You can ask the provider to show you their registration certificate, or you can look it up on the CQC database of registered providers.

The CQC advises that you do not sign up for cosmetic surgery at a hospital or clinic that can't provide evidence that it's registered with them.

Researching how good they are

Once you've confirmed that the provider is registered with the CQC, research the quality of their service.

You can do this by looking at the latest CQC inspection report, which appears when you search for the provider on the CQC website.

Visit cosmetic surgery clinics

Next, gather as much information as you can about the procedure, the places that offer it (clinics and hospitals), and the surgeons who carry it out.  

Visit clinics and hospitals, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Reputable services will be happy to discuss everything with you.

Write down any questions you want to ask so you don't forget them. The list could include the following questions:

  • What level of care can I can expect after the operation? Who will look after me?
  • What happens if something goes wrong? What if I'm not satisfied with the result?
  • How much will it cost, including my aftercare? Will it cost extra to have further treatment if something goes wrong?

Don't choose a clinic or hospital far from where you live – you won't want to travel far after an operation.

Talk with the surgeon

The clinic or hospital you choose should offer you a consultation appointment with the surgeon who will perform or supervise the procedure.

Ask them if they are on the GMC's specialist register in the area of practice relevant to the procedure you have chosen. Also, ask if they're insured to perform cosmetic surgery in the UK.

Talk to the surgeon about what you want to change and why, the options available, and the likely results of a surgical procedure. Tell the surgeon about any medical conditions you have and all the medications you're taking.

Consider getting a second opinion, if necessary.

Ask the surgeon about the procedure

The surgeon should give you details of exactly what's involved in the procedure, including:

  • how long it will take
  • how it will be carried out
  • the anaesthetic you'll need
  • what pain you can expect afterwards
  • how long the recovery should be
  • the potential risks and complications specific to the procedure
  • how long the results will last

Ask the surgeon about their personal complication rate and the most common complications for their patients for this procedure.

The surgeon or clinic should not put pressure on you to have the surgery or to make a fast decision. It's normal to have at least two weeks after the consultation to decide whether to go ahead with the procedure.

Don't be pressured by talk of special offers that are for a limited time only. If you feel any pressure at all from the clinic or surgeon, go somewhere else.

Everyone considering cosmetic surgery should ask themselves these three questions: 

  • Do I understand clearly what's going to be done to me?
  • Are my expectations of the results of the surgery realistic – not of perfection, but reasonable improvement?
  • Do I understand what could go wrong and, if so, could I cope if it did go wrong?

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) website has some answers to common questions about surgery.

Look out for the new certification system 

At the moment, doctors who provide cosmetic surgery independently in the private sector only need to be registered with and licensed by the General Medical Council (GMC) as a doctor.

There is no legal requirement for the doctor to be a specialist surgeon on the GMC's specialist register.

So to make cosmetic surgery as safe as possible, the Department of Health asked the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) to develop a certification system.

This certification system, being introduced in 2016, would enable surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery to demonstrate that they have the appropriate skills and experience to perform cosmetic surgical procedures.

Any surgeon who has been certified will have demonstrated that they have the appropriate training, skills and experience to perform the procedure. You'll simply be able to visit the RCS website to look for a certified surgeon, for that extra peace of mind.

Certification will be voluntary, but it is expected that all surgeons who want to carry out cosmetic surgery in the private sector will certify.

Page last reviewed: 19/05/2016

Next review due: 19/05/2019

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