If you are considering cosmetic surgery, you will need to ask some essential questions to make sure your plastic surgeon is properly qualified. It is also likely that you will have many queries both before and after any procedure around preparation, what to expect and what to do if things go wrong. 

Below is a list of some commonly asked questions that will help you to make an informed decision on whether cosmetic surgery is right for you. You should also remember to check the 5 Cs for cosmetic surgery before making any final decision and then ensure you follow our questions to ask your surgeon before your consultation

Before choosing cosmetic surgery...

Q. What credentials should I look for when choosing a surgeon?

A. If you are thinking about cosmetic surgery, speak to your GP. Make sure that you find a surgeon who has the right qualifications and is on the appropriate specialist register with the GMC. Fully qualified Plastic Surgeons will be on the GMC Specialist Register for Plastic Surgery. (You can find the register through the GMC website here). Find out about their experience of the procedure you are considering and make sure you meet them and discuss the outcome you can expect before you commit to having something done. 

Your surgeon should provide you with a proper consultation and advice, and allow you adequate time to make an informed decision, based on the identified risks and benefits. If your surgeon is also a member of BAPRAS then they are not only listed on the GMC Specialist Register but also adhere to a further strict code of practice around quality of patient care. 

Surgeons from other surgical specialties also provide cosmetic surgery within particular anatomical specific areas of the body but, once again, you should check that they are on the GMC Specialist Register for the discipline in which they have trained, as well as checking their outcomes.

BAPRAS is currently working with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC) to advance recommendations that will ensure all cosmetic surgeons, whether from a Plastic Surgery background or not, can prove high standards of training in the areas they are practicing. However, as these recommendations are not currently in place, use of the GMC Specialist Register is recommended as the safest approach to choosing your surgeon.  

Whilst qualifications are of course important, they count for nothing if a surgeon makes you anxious or uncomfortable, so it is also important to remember that you need to be happy and comfortable with your choice of surgeon.

Q. How much contact, if any, will I have with my surgeon before surgery?

A. This will vary depending on the type of surgery you want to have. However, the  surgeon performing your procedure should offer you a thorough face-to-face consultation.

Q. What sort of prices can I expect? Does paying more money mean that a surgeon is better qualified?

A. The price of procedures performed in private clinics vary and completely depend on which type of surgery you want to have. The price is affected by how much time you will spend in hospital or at the practice, as well as the relative complexities of each procedure. It will also reflect the time spent by the surgeon on your care both in terms of consultations and the surgery itself.

Paying more for an operation does not guarantee that a surgeon is better qualified, or that you will receive a higher quality result. Cut-price deals or costs that seem too good to be true probably are, and should be strictly avoided. Also, be aware of any time limited offers as you should be able to take all the time you need to make the right decision for you.  

Most importantly, make sure that your surgeon is listed on the GMC Specialist Register for  the discipline in which they have trained, and that you have checked their outcomes. You should also follow all of BAPRAS’ recommendations on checking whether they offer the right advice and aftercare. These are listed here

Q: What change can I expect to see? 

A: The decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be made lightly.  You need to be honest with yourself about what you want to have done and what you expect it to achieve.  Are there any alternatives that will allow you to avoid surgery?  

It is also important to do your homework before going ahead.  Whether it is about finding the right treatment or ensuring the surgery will achieve the change you want, it is essential that you spend time researching and looking for information specific to the surgery you are considering.  

Start your research by visiting the NHS Choices website.

In addition, our guides provide useful patient information on the different cosmetic surgery options available.

Q. Am I eligible for cosmetic surgery on the NHS?

A. The majority of cosmetic surgery procedures are performed in private practices. However, in some circumstances, patients may be eligible for cosmetic surgery treatment funded by the NHS. This is only in circumstances where it is deemed that surgery will have a transformative effect on a patient’s life, and examples include nasal deformity or major breast abnormalities. 

If you think you may be able to receive cosmetic surgery funded by the NHS, you need to book an appointment with your GP to discuss what is possible. They will be able to offer expert advice depending on the procedure you are looking to have, and refer you to a hospital specialist and Plastic Surgery team, if necessary. 

For further information on cosmetic surgery in the NHS visit BAPRAS’ advice here or the NHS Choices website.

Q. What is a non-surgical cosmetic procedure? Who can carry these out?

A. There is a difference between cosmetic surgery procedures and non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures include treatments like botox injections or dermal fillers. These do not involve surgery. If you want to have a non-cosmetic surgical procedure, it is important to recognise that these can legally be performed by registered practitioners who are not Plastic Surgeons and who may not hold medical qualifications. Further advice on non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including how you can ensure you visit a practitioner with the appropriate experience and qualifications, can be found on the NHS Choices website here.

Q. Are there any lifestyle choices that I can make to help ensure safer surgery, before my procedure takes place?

A. Before you make the decision to have surgery you should consult your GP to make sure that you are in good health and that you are not suffering from any other health conditions that may influence the outcome of surgery. Lifestyle choices are also important and avoiding alcohol and smoking 3–8 weeks before surgery will significantly reduce the incidence of several serious postoperative complications, such as wound complications and infections. It is important to remember that your mental wellbeing is equally important to physical wellbeing when considering whether you are in the right position to receive surgery.

Q. Will I be denied surgery if I have a history of mental health problems or illness?

A. BAPRAS strongly advises against considering any form of cosmetic surgery if you are experiencing mental health conditions – even the more common types such as stress – as these can significantly impact the ability to make informed, rational decisions.

A good surgeon will talk to you about your mental health and wellbeing before agreeing to perform any form of surgical procedure and can refer patients to psychologists to seek advice or support where necessary. All good surgeons will not perform surgery if they believe that a patient can be helped to improve their quality of life and wellbeing more effectively through other means.

Outcomes need to be agreed and decided jointly by the patient and surgeon and you should be prepared for the possibility that the surgeon may advise against the procedure or treatment that you are considering. 

A thorough consultation process will help you make the right choice for you. 

After your cosmetic surgery...

Q. What can I do if I’m not happy with the result?

A. All good surgeons should offer advice of what you can do if you are not happy with the outcome of your surgery. Read our patient case studies here for what to look for when considering cosmetic surgery to ensure the best results.

If you've had cosmetic surgery and you're not happy with the results, or you think that the procedure wasn't carried out properly, take up the matter with your surgeon or through the hospital or clinic where you were treated.

Most cases will be resolved by the hospital or clinic involved, however if you are still not satisfied, you can take your case further. There are a number of bodies that can help you with your complaint, including:
•  The Patients’ Association
•  Action Against Medical Accidents
•  The Independent Healthcare Advisory Service.
•  Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service
•  The General Medical Council
•  The Care Quality Commission

Practitioners of non-surgical procedures do not currently need to be registered with the CQC or any other regulatory body, so if you have an issue it's best to take it up with the person who carried out the procedure or the clinic where it was performed.

Q. If I have surgery abroad, but am now having problems back in the UK, where can I seek help?

A. Complications following surgery are always a risk, especially if travelling abroad for treatment where a surgeon’s qualifications and credentials can be more difficult to verify. 

All UK residents are entitled to NHS treatment should they face any serious condition and illness as a result of surgery, regardless of where this has been performed.

However, if it is a case of being unhappy with the result, or if it is not a medical emergency, further treatment may be more difficult or costly.

All good surgeons will be able to provide a consultation to give honest, balanced advice on whether further corrective surgery can be performed, although this will most likely need to be performed privately and will entail a cost.

Q. How much contact will I have with my surgeon after a procedure has been performed?

A. All good surgeons will provide a comprehensive aftercare plan alongside details of who you can contact if you want to ask any questions or seek advice. Depending on the procedure, this may include face-to-face discussions with the surgeon who performed your procedure.