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The NHS, or National Health Service, is the Government’s health service that UK residents can use without having to pay. However, sometimes  the treatment you want may not be available through the NHS. This could be because it is only made available in certain situations or isn’t considered a necessity  by the NHS. This article aims to provide clarification on how NHS views cosmetic surgeries and when may they be provided at NHS.

Which cosmetic surgeries would NHS consider?
Cosmetic surgery is undertaken for a wide spectrum of conditions. While improving outward appearance may be at the core of these surgeries, many surgeries also have a symptomatic or functional objective. In other words:

  • Surgeries required after an accident, illness or birth defect. (symptomatic objective)
  • Surgeries required for improving physical, psychological and/or social dysfunctions, some of which may be considered clinical due to severity. (functional objective)

The majority of cosmetic surgeries are considered to be ‘low priority’ and therefore not funded by the NHS. However, if there is a symptomatic or functional requirement for surgery, it may be made available on the NHS. Unfortunately, there is no definitive guidance available. In order to understand this better, let’s look at some common cosmetic surgeries and possible instances where they may be made available on the NHS:

  • Breast Reconstruction: If the breast is being reconstructed following mastectomy (i.e. removal due to breast cancer);
  • Breast Enlargement: In cases of developmental failure resulting in unilateral or bilateral absence of breast tissue or asymmetry, or total lack of breast development, marked by absence of inframammary fold;
  • Female Breast Reduction: If the weight and size of breasts is causing functional problems: neck ache, backache and/or intertrigo, and symptoms are not relieved by physiotherapy and/ or a professionally fitted brassiere;
  • Male Breast Reduction: If one or both breasts are abnormally large due to long term gynaecomastia (and it is anticipated that the reduction will involve >100g tissue from a single breast) and the patient has been screened prior to referral to exclude endocrinological, drug related causes, or underlying malignancy and the patient has not been taking any medication that may causing gynaecomastia for 12 months;
  • Inverted nipple correction: If there are functional reasons (i.e. to enable breast feeding) in postpubertal women after the birth of their first child and the inversion cannot be corrected by correct use of a noninvasive suction device;
  • Repair of External Ear Lobes: If the patient has totally split ear lobes as a result of direct trauma in a non-pierced earlobe;
  • Rhinoplasty: In cases of medical problems caused by obstruction of the nasal airway or objective nasal deformity caused by trauma or correction of complex congenital conditions e.g. Cleft lip and palate.

It is important to note that the above list is highly indicative and the final outcome is based on a case by case assessment.

What’s the process?
It needs to be recognised that the NHS cannot, within its resources, meet all health needs and hence operates a very strict assessment policy for cosmetic surgeries. The starting point is for you to have an appointment with your General Practitioner (GP) who will undertake a full clinical assessment and advise whether you can have surgery at the NHS. In some cases you may have to undergo an assessment with the plastic surgeon and if appropriate a psychiatrist or a psychologist. It may be noted that in some cases functional objective for the surgery (such as psychological/ psychiatric distress) will only be considered where there is evidence that the patient has received or is currently receiving extensive specialist treatment for a significant psychological or psychiatric illness directly related to the condition in question.

What should I look out for?
NHS policy varies from area to area and therefore your first port of call should be your GP. But before you go calling on your GP, you should also consider the following:

  • Waiting Lists: Relying on the NHS could mean waiting a very long time for treatment, sometimes even years! Going down the private route means that you will have instant, on-demand access to care.
  • Choice and Privacy: Going private means more choice and more privacy. You can choose your own hospital, your own doctor, and you get your own private room.
  • Range of Resources: Many resources may not be readily available when relying on the NHS. Whether it’s a larger selection of treatments to ongoing recovery treatments such as physiotherapy, your choice with NHS may be limited.

You should carefully assess your circumstances, and make the right choice for you. Going private would most likely mean paying for the surgery out of your own pocket as private medical insurance providers also heavily ration cosmetic surgeries. You could also consider take no out a personal loan to pay for your surgery, as long as you’re not stretching your finances and budgeting commitments.

If you choose to go private, NowMe can provide all the help and guidance you require – whether its finding the best plastic surgeons in UK or creating a payment plan that suits your means. Head out to nowme.co.uk today and start your treatment journey!