Rise of Cosmetic Surgery Tourism threatens patient safety and burdens NHS", warns BAPRAS

Press release- 3 December 2008

Research published today by The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) found that during 2007 almost a quarter of its membership (23%) had to treat  patients within in NHS with complications related to cosmetic surgery performed outside of the UK.

In 2007, plastic surgeons saw at least 208 patients across the UK for complications after cosmetic surgery abroad.  Approximately three quarters of those patients had complications that required treatment.  Of these, 26% of patients had to have emergency surgery, 31% opted to have elective surgery to rectify the problem, 33% had non-surgical treatment as an out-patient and 8% of patients had non-surgical treatment as an in-patient.

The operations that presented with complications most frequently were breast augmentation, with sixty-one patients (29%) coming to the NHS following this procedure, 50 patients (24%) following abdominoplasty, 33 patients (15%) following breast reductions and 22 patients (10%) following a face or neck lift.

BAPRAS warns UK patients there may be a cost to their health and the NHS if they choose to have cosmetic surgery abroad.  It is urging consumers who are thinking about going overseas to have cosmetic surgery to undertake plenty of research before doing so.

The research by BAPRAS also highlights that there is no clear NHS policy on treatment of these patients for acute complications of their surgery or for elective revisions of their procedures.  It points out that the responsibility for aftercare for cosmetic surgery carried out privately in the UK lies with the plastic surgeon conducting the procedure, but this is often not the case within surgery abroad.  This means patients returning from cosmetic surgery abroad often look to the NHS to provide aftercare, which inevitably takes resources away from other patients.

BAPRAS says that this trend is likely to rise in line with the increase of cosmetic tourism and this may have an impact on waiting times for other plastic surgery procedures in cancer, trauma and elective surgery.

Anthony Armstrong, a consultant plastic surgeon and chair of BAPRAS’ clinical effectiveness committee, said: “Cosmetic operations involve major surgery. Anyone considering cosmetic surgery abroad must make sure they are fully aware of the potential complications that can occur and consider how these will be dealt with. They should not assume that the NHS will pick up the pieces and, they may find themselves having to pay privately for follow-up surgery here.”

BAPRAS stressed that there is always a risk of complication following surgery wherever it is carried out but in addition to this, patients travelling abroad for surgery will also have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when flying back shortly after having a procedure.  BAPRAS urges those considering going abroad for surgery to be mindful of these and other factors when making their decision as the cost saving they make may not be worth it in the long run.

BAPRAS is calling on the Department of Health to issue guidance to NHS Trusts on the treatment of patients referred to the NHS with complications following cosmetic surgery abroad. 

For further information on what to look out for when deciding to go abroad for cosmetic surgery go to: www.bapras.org.uk


About cosmetic surgery
Cosmetic surgery operations revise or change appearance, colour, texture, structural position of body features to achieve what patients perceive to be more desirable.


BAPRAS, the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, is the voice of plastic surgery in the UK. It aims to increase the understanding of the professional specialty and scope of plastic surgery, promoting innovation in teaching, learning and research.

Founded in 1946 (originally as the British Association of Plastic Surgeons), today BAPRAS has over 800 members and is the professional representative body for reconstructive and aesthetic plastic surgeons providing services to patients on the NHS and privately in the UK.

Members of the public can find a member plastic surgeon in their area by logging on to www.bapras.org.uk. Anyone can check the GMC to find out if a surgeon is on the plastic surgery specialist register. 
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