Cosmetic surgery tourism is becoming increasingly common amongst Brits, with figures from Whatclinic.com showing a 109% increase in UK citizens heading overseas for cosmetic surgery in 2014. However it is not difficult to see why, with the price of cosmetic surgery treatments abroad often far lower than in the UK. Rhinoplasty (a nose job) for example, can cost £3,000 in the UK, but just £1,200 in Poland.
For many who choose to undergo such procedures abroad, the lure of combining treatment with a holiday in the sun in countries such as Thailand and Turkey is an added bonus. Yet many of those who travel do not appear to understand the significant risks involved with this sort of tourism, and take few steps to ensure that they remain healthy and legally protected.
Those who choose to travel abroad for surgery should ensure that they ask the same questions and take the same level of care over choosing a clinic as they would here in the UK. When considering a specific clinic, the qualifications of the surgeons at the clinic should be investigated, and only clinics and surgeons with suitable liability insurance should be used.
Tips for selecting a clinic abroad
Selecting a clinic inside of the European Union (EU) will usually provide better protection than those outside, mainly down to the EU countries sharing many of the regulations and directives that the UK has, and standards of care and aftercare are higher. However how these are precisely implemented country from to country will still differ greatly. You will also find that many travel insurers will not cover complications arising from cosmetic surgery abroad, so a specialist insurance policy will be needed.
Choosing an English-speaking clinic is also important, in order to fully understand the procedure. You should also ensure that you have spoken to the surgeon who will actually be performing the procedure before the surgery goes ahead, in order to pass your own judgement and ask any questions that you may have.
Surgical procedures may differ from country to country, and it is down to you to find out and agree the procedure is correct and suitable before you go ahead. You should also obtain information about the types and standards of anaesthetics that are used, the level of aftercare that the clinic offers and the amount of recovery time that is needed before the flight home.
With any type of surgery, there is always a risk of complication - whether in the UK or abroad. If there are complications with UK surgery, liability cover means that you will be fully protected and cared for should something go wrong. This, however, may not be the case should you decide to have surgery abroad, so it is vital to check in advance. As well as ensuring that the clinic and the surgeon are insured, you should check that there is a formal complaints procedure in place, that you know who the liability falls on, and that you know who you should contact to resolve the problems and claim any compensation to which you are entitled.
The most important question...
The main question to ask yourself (and your treatment provider) is what happens if things go wrong? Saving a couple of thousand pounds may turn out to be a high price to pay for poor treatment that affects your long term wellbeing.
There are huge numbers of clinics around the world that provide safe, clean, qualified and fully insured cosmetic procedures to Brits travelling abroad. Doing your research, and choosing a reputable provider are simple steps that could prevent you from being left vulnerable on the operating table.
About the author
Jane Gittins is a Solicitor, Chartered Legal Executive and head of legal operations at Spencers Solicitors. Jane has over fourteen years' experience representing injured claimants and also oversees Spencers' complex injury team.
The above blog also appeared as a featured article in The Looks Trust.