Choosing a surgeon

If you’ve decided to have cosmetic surgery, you'll need to choose a surgeon to carry out the procedure. Find out the questions you need to ask to make sure a surgeon is suitably qualified and experienced. This will help to ensure the procedure is as safe as possible.

When looking for a cosmetic surgeon, Professor Simon Kay, consultant plastic surgeon and member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), says your GP is the best person to contact first.

“Your GP knows the local situation, such as who is a well-established surgeon,” says Professor Kay. You can also talk about any health issues you have, and whether they might affect or be affected by surgery.

Visit 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.

"If you feel any pressure from the clinic or the surgeon, walk out of the consultation" Eileen Bradbury, consultant psychologist

Go to 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 that you don’t forget them. The list could include questions about:

  • the surgeon's qualifications and experience
  • how often they have carried out the procedure you want
  • the care you can expect after the operation
  • how much it will cost

Don’t choose a clinic far from where you live – you won’t want to travel far after an operation. BAPRAS recommends choosing a clinic or hospital that carries out other types of surgery as well as cosmetic surgery, because this means that the facilities will be more comprehensive than in cosmetic-only clinics.

Checking that clinics, doctors and nurses are registered

Check that the person who advises you about the surgery is a doctor or nurse. Make sure that they're registered with the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

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 the CQC.

Once you've confirmed that the provider is registered with the CQC, find out about 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.

Talk with the surgeon

The clinic or hospital you choose should offer you a consultation appointment with the surgeon. “Tell the surgeon what you feel your problem is and ask for their advice,” says Professor Kay. Mention any medical conditions that you have, and all medications that you're taking.

“You can also ask to speak to other patients who've had the procedure," he adds.

Ask if the surgeon is an NHS consultant in the relevant specialty. It's not essential, but if they're an NHS consultant it means that their qualifications are of a very high standard.

Ask about the procedure

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

  • how long it will take
  • the anaesthetic you’ll need
  • what pain you can expect
  • how long the results will last
  • how long the recovery should be

The surgeon or clinic should not put pressure on you to have the surgery or to make a fast decision. 

Eileen Bradbury, consultant psychologist, says: "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, walk out."

Professor Kay suggests that everyone considering cosmetic surgery should ask themselves these three questions: 

  • Do I understand clearly what's going to be done to me?
  • Have I got a sensible expectation: not of perfection but of reasonable improvement?
  • Do I understand what could go wrong and, if so, could I cope if it did go wrong?

If you're considering any kind of surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons answers some common questions.

Cosmetic surgery abroad

If you're thinking of having cosmetic surgery abroad, be aware that regulations and qualifications for surgeons and nurses might differ from those in the UK.

Find out more about having cosmetic surgery abroad.

Page last reviewed: 24/07/2012

Next review due: 24/07/2014

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