Cosmetic Surgery- Thinking About Going Abroad for Treatment?
News article published on: 12th August 2019
People from the UK travel abroad for plastic surgery, as on the face of it, it can cost substantially less than paying for private treatment at home. However, cost is not the only factor you should consider before booking an appointment.
Below are a few important details that you should bear in mind before stepping onto that flight:
1. Selecting your cosmetic surgeon and your hospital
In the UK, cosmetic surgeons must be appropriately qualified and adhere to high standards of practice. The specialist register for plastic surgery is held by the UK’s General Medical Council so you can readily check if your surgeon is legitimate. However, other countries use different systems for registering plastic surgeons and may even have different standards of practice and qualifications.
So, if you are opting to travel for your cosmetic surgery, do your research. The Royal College of Surgeons advises that you should meet your potential surgeon face to face before you agree to any cosmetic surgery procedure abroad. Reassure yourself that your surgeon is qualified and sufficiently experienced in your chosen procedure.
If you can, get testimonials from past patients or ask for a selection of before and after photographs, to satisfy yourself that the surgeon is right for you. Request details of your surgeon’s insurance – this will inform you whether the surgeon is covered to perform your chosen procedure, or not.
The Royal College of Surgeons also advises that you should visit the hospital where your procedure will take place, before you finally commit to surgery abroad. Private hospitals in the UK are regulated by the Healthcare Commission which ensure a high standard of cleanliness. Clinics abroad may not have similar regulation, so check out the standards of upkeep and hygiene for yourself.
When doing your research, you should be especially cautious of any hospital that advertises cosmetic surgery tourism, namely providing cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday package deal (1). In these cases do not be palmed off by salespeople and their sales pitches. Speak to the clinicians directly and visit the hospitals and clinics yourself.
2. Pre-treatment consultation
The pre-treatment consultation is an opportunity for the surgeon to examine you and determine if your desired procedure is suitable for you. It is also a time for the surgeon to explain what the surgery involves, including any risks and complications. If you have questions, make a list and bring it with you – that way you will not forget something important.
Bear in mind, if you are going abroad for your surgery, there could be language difficulties, which could affect the communication and understanding between you and your health-care providers. You could request a translator and a repeat appointment if you were not content how the initial consultation proceeded.
Note that after the consultation, you should also be given a period in which to change your mind, known as a cooling-off period. In the UK this period is typically two weeks.
3. Aftercare following cosmetic surgery
Any surgical procedure has risks. Problems can occur during the operation, or days afterwards. Additionally, it is generally considered to be unsafe to fly immediately following an operation, as there is an increased risk of developing a blood clot. So, after your cosmetic procedure, you will likely have to stay in a hotel or hospital for several days before you can go home.
For your safety it is important to establish exactly what is provided in your aftercare programme, including what happens if something goes wrong in the days after your surgery. Immediately after your surgery, you should be monitored by qualified medical staff no matter where you are staying. So, you need to make sure that your chosen cosmetic surgeon will follow you up to ensure that you are healing well and to trouble shoot any potential problems as they arise. Remember, if something goes wrong, it can go wrong quickly, and you could end up in serious trouble.
Complications and problems can arise once you arrive home, but unless you develop a life-threatening condition, it is unlikely that the NHS will step in. So, make sure you clarify what after-care is available to you on your return home. For example, you may require revision surgery: will you have to pay more for it and how will travel and accommodation costs be covered?
Clarify all the costs involved, including provisions if something goes wrong. Find out what happens if you change your mind and you have already paid towards the procedure. Cosmetic procedures may be cheaper abroad, but when you factor in additional costs such as travel and accommodation, your savings may be much less than you anticipated. More importantly, by going abroad you may also be trading safety for the saving of a few pounds.
You should establish that the surgeon and the hospital carry insurance to cover your procedure.
If something goes wrong injured person can bring a claim directly against the insurance company, from the UK. Court proceedings can only be issued in the UK against the insurance company. If there is no insurance in place the injured person can only sue the specialist or the clinic in the country where procedure was carried out. UK courts do not have jurisdiction if there is no insurance.
Find out exactly what is and is not covered, such as medication, aftercare, revision surgery.
In addition, you should clarify what your own travel insurance covers – you may need to take out specialist insurance to cover travelling abroad for cosmetic surgery.
6. When cosmetic surgery goes wrong
If this should happen you may be left with not only physical scars but, emotional scars too. You may also be suffering a financial burden which needs to be addressed. For many, the next step and best approach is to seek compensation and assistance with gaining any further care and treatment that may be needed. A specialist cosmetic lawyer will help you to get your life back on track.