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Is cosmetic surgery available on the NHS?

Cosmetic surgery is not routinely provided on the NHS.

It may occasionally be provided on the NHS for psychological or other health reasons. For example, the NHS might pay for:

  • breast implants – if you have very uneven breasts or no breasts, and it's causing significant psychological distress
  • nose reshaping – if you have breathing problems
  • ear correction surgery – if a child needs it, or sometimes, if an adult has prominent ears that are causing significant distress
  • female breast reduction – if you're very distressed about the size of your breasts and they're causing problems like backache
  • male breast reduction – if you've had a condition called gynaecomastia for a long time, other treatments have not worked, and it's causing considerable pain or distress

Generally, most people who want cosmetic surgery will need to pay for it privately.

Reconstructive or plastic surgery is often available on the NHS. It's different from cosmetic surgery because its main aim is to repair and reconstruct missing or damaged tissue and skin after an illness, accident or birth defect.

Plastic surgery includes procedures such as rebuilding a woman's breasts after a mastectomy (an operation to remove a breast), and repairing a cleft lip and palate.

Page last reviewed: 10 October 2019
Next review due: 10 October 2022