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Can I Get Cosmetic Surgery on the NHS?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 11 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Cosmetic Surgery Nhs Plastic Surgery

We all want to look better, but even if we decide that plastic surgery is the way to go, few of us have the money to do it. But can we get it free on the NHS?

The rule of thumb is quite simple. The NHS will not pay for procedures done for cosmetic reasons only. However, if you are suffering undue psychological trauma because of what you perceive to be a physical deformity, they may pay. To do this, you must follow guidelines as set out by your local health authority, and must need a referral from you GP. You will then have an assessment with a plastic surgeon as well as a psychiatrist, psychologist or psycho-sexual consultant, depending on your situation.

Please note that there is a difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. The former is carried out for aesthetic reasons alone, while the latter is designed to correct congenital abnormalities or those caused by injury or disease. Surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery on the NHS are all members of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, or BAAPS, which is a prerequisite for them doing this. So you can be sure the care you receive is high quality.

What Kind of Cosmetic Procedures Qualify for NHS Treatment?

Basically anything, as long as it can be proven to ¨enormously improve the quality of a patient´s life¨. The correction of protruding ears, nasal deformities and breast hypertrophy are some of the more obvious ones, but there are less obvious ones as well. For example, the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons also recognises the need for tattoo removal done under the NHS, as people can regret them bitterly in later life and they are perceived as restricting employment opportunities. Please be aware that new research has revealed that some people have been exaggerating their unhappiness with their looks in order to get free NHS surgery.

Other procedures that are shown to have exceptional health benefits are also available on the NHS. They include, among others:

  • Breast Reduction: Only where there is severe accompanying pain
  • Breast Enlargement: Asymmetry following surgery or for congenital reasons or when severe psychological stress is present
  • Male Breast Reduction: Only in cases of severe distress or asymmetry
  • Breast Uplift: In cases of asymmetry or severe stress
  • Facelift: For people with nerve damage
  • Upper Eyelid Lift: When this obscures vision
  • Nosejob: Only to correct deformity, help better breathing or where there is severe stress
  • Correction of Prominent Ears: Only after age 16 where there is severe stress
  • Tummy Tuck: Only when there is physical pain or disabling stress

What About Relatively New Procedures?

That depends on whether on not they have been proven to work. Penis enlargement operations, for example, have not been conclusively shown to have real results. That´s why, except in cases of micropenis, they are generally not available on the NHS.

Plastic surgery that can change the way we feel about ourselves can, in some cases, be available on the NHS. But it may be more worthwhile to investigate why our self-esteem, or lack of it, hinges on factors such as the size of our breasts, tummies and noses. Everyone is unique, and life would be very boring if we all fulfilled society´s idea of beauty to the mark. Perhaps if we were able to be kinder to ourselves, and to others, the ¨need¨ for cosmetic surgery, both privately and on the NHS, would plummet.

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I have a real problem with my teeth or rather my lack off. .I suppose to start with I have always had a terrible fear of the dentist which I got as a child from our butcher of a school dentist. .This dentist has a fb page full of people's horror stories and I don't remember having that fear before then..as time went on that fear meant that I always had to get work carried out under sedation which was becoming harder..However I found a really nice dentist who was willing to give sedation quite freely and I really liked him. .I was 19 when I first went to him with pain from my front tooth which I had broken. .He was very reassuring and said don't worry I won't sort it out and give you a lovely smile back..so the following day I went back was put to sleep and woke to what I now know was 6 temporary front teeth and two weeks later a permanent bridge was fitted. .I was young, frightened and naive and even though I wondered why he had done that and not understanding the consequences I still didn't ask why..That dentist ended up committing suicide in his practice as he had been found guilty of misconduct for claiming for work he hadn't carried out. .I also later found out that he had other problems with drink and a lot of debt. .very sad really but I had always thought he carried out so much work on me on teeth that I wasn't aware had any problems..years later while at a new dentist they said they couldn't believe he did that. .They looked at my records and said there was no reason for that work and that I would start losing all those front teeth. .I can't tell you the shock. .I didn't realise the type of work it entailed and that they had a shelf life. .also serious gum disease had gotten in under the gums and spread round the gum. .Also did just as they said I started loosing my teeth. .At first I had partial denture..devastating for me. .but then eventually all the teeth have gone and the struggle of the full denture has left me hardly able to eat which has left me very underweight with worsening symptoms of my diverticular disease..but mostly for me it is the psychological effect. .It feels disgusting to me,I try not to speak to people close up..I certainly don't kiss anyone and it has destroyed my confidence..I can't eat out at all and so I pretty much avoid everything..I don't smile any more and it has really gotten to me how much I am missing out on..I have 3 disabled adult children to care for and so cannot pay for implants..If I could I would..I feel a little angry that I first got my fear from a school nhs dentist and then went on to receive what was definitely unnecessary treatment that lead to the lose of many of my top teeth and I cannot get dental implants..There is a time limit to sueof 3 yearswhich seems unfair as I didn't know when it was done that this would be the outcome. .and so Iam left in limbo and feeling awful. Do you know if there is any way I could qualify for treatment on the nhs and who to approach as I
nina - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:48 AM
Hi, when I was a baby I had a corvonious hemangioma on my lip. I had surgery which ended up getting infected and had numerous operations after to help fix the problem. I have been left with a more zig zag scar, than an unnoticeable one, if I hadn't had a trainee surgeon. I have had psychological trauma since, too this day. I am 28 years of age. I even refuse to shave properly, just so it's not that noticeable. Is there any way of getting help with some surgical procedure to help the appearance?
Ash - 9-Sep-17 @ 1:44 PM
@_jodi_ - such an application can take months and months for this to be addressed through the NHS. They do not consider cosmetic surgery to be priority surgery.
UHH - 27-Jul-17 @ 3:58 PM
Hi, I am 19 turning 20 in a few months and I have very asymmetrical breasts. This has been something that's been very obvious since a young age and always been/still is a huge insecurity for me. I have contacted doctors for this and they have sent applications for corrective surgery but it has been months now and still nothing. I am slowly losing hope, being in a situation where I cannot afford to correct this problem. This leads me to my next question, can I apply again? Do I give up? Is there anyone I can contact myself about funding? Please help!
_jodi_ - 26-Jul-17 @ 4:48 PM
HUNTER22 - Your Question:
Hi I have recently turned 30 years old and I have been suffereing since the age of 18 was once I started to notice my breasts were small. And even now they re mking my life a living hell. I don't go out. I have a son who is 5 and he doesn't understand why I won't take him swimming or on holiday or anywhere I have to wear a bikini. Its causing major anxciety and depression. Even been bullied of ex boyfriend so don't even want to date anyone and my life just isn't normal as my friends lives are. I won't go to work I just don't feel womanly at all. I wear padded bras daily which give me severe back pain and its just getting me really down. I just waant to feel happy nd confident as my life isn't happy right now. Is there anything I can do about this on the NHS ASAP??? I have put it off for years telling my doctor cuz even showing my doctor is embarrassing for me. Please help. Thank u

Our Response:
Many women have small breasts, but breast enhancement is rarely carrried out on the NHS. The NHS will not pay for breast enlargement on the basis of cosmetic grounds. You would have to be able to prove you are suffering significant psychological and/or mental-health issues for a GP to refer you for surgery.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 13-Jul-17 @ 3:10 PM
Hi I have recently turned 30 years old and I have been suffereing since the age of 18 was once I started to notice my breasts were small. And even now they re mking my life a living hell. I don't go out. I have a son who is 5 and he doesn't understand why I won't take him swimming or on holiday or anywhere I have to wear a bikini. Its causing major anxciety and depression. Even been bullied of ex boyfriend so don't even want to date anyone and my life just isn't normal as my friends lives are. I won't go to work I just don't feel womanly at all. I wear padded bras daily which give me severe back pain and its just getting me really down. I just waant to feel happy nd confident as my life isn't happy right now. Is there anything I can do about this on the NHS ASAP??? I have put it off for years telling my doctor cuz even showing my doctor is embarrassing for me. Please help. Thank u
HUNTER22 - 13-Jul-17 @ 12:35 AM
I had a car accident where because the surgeons had to do immediate thoroctomy, and preform open heat cardiac massage as I had hear failure they did a very poor job in realigning the cut, as they didnt expect I would survive. I lost the use of my lower limbs and have to mobilize with crutches. Due to the scar I have a a layer of scar tissuewhich make it absolutely painful for me to walk more than 10 yards. I asked if they could do anything to the scar tissue so I could walk further. The NHS refused as they said this was for cosmetic purposes buta girl had a legs lightened as she wanted to be a model. Several other women had breast enlargement done on the NHS for Psychological trauma. Here I am I just want to had this scar attended to so I can walk without pain and they say no. Especially when they botched the surgery in the first place!
Whyme? - 5-Jul-17 @ 5:21 PM
Fir - Your Question:
When I was 1 year old I had an accident which cause my thumb to grow deformed. The nail has been hurting everytime it grows I have been hiding it all my life recently 1 person told everyone about my thumb and now I get so many comments. I have felt servelly depressed will nhs correct my thumb make it look normal and let my nail grow without it hurting everytime?

Our Response:
You would have to consult your GP regarding this. You will be referred to a specialist if you are in constant pain. However, we cannot predict whether you doctor feels cosmetic surgery should take place.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 3-Jul-17 @ 12:34 PM
When i was 1 year old i had an accident which cause my thumb to grow deformed. The nail has been hurting everytime it grows i have been hiding it all my life recently 1 person told everyone about my thumb and now i get so many comments. I have felt servelly depressed will nhs correct my thumb make it look normal and let my nail grow without it hurting everytime?
Fir - 3-Jul-17 @ 12:50 AM
Hi, I'm getting really upset with the way my breasts look I'm having to wear padded bras i can't wear a bathing suit or anything pretty.I currently visited my Dr today but he basically didn't have any time for me, my breasts are on the small side I've virtually got no breast tissue and there asymmetrical is there any way that the nhs can help
Upsetmum - 5-Jun-17 @ 6:40 PM
Hey, I've recently been to see a doctor but he didn't offer much help as he did not think it was something I should be worried about.From as young as the age of 4 I have hated the sight of myself as I have, what my family call, a classic roman nose, even at that ages I hated it soo much it caused me to have anger problems and had to see a child phycologists. I am now 22 and I still hate myself...even more than ever, I cannot allow my self to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or I will be reduced to tears, I'm too anxious to leave the house as I feel that people are just looking at me and mocking my nose (I know people aren't even that interested in my nose, but I cannot shake the feeling) it's got to the point that I cannot take my daughter out and have to rely on family, for example I took her to a play area earlier this week, I sucked it up for a few hours till enough was enough I ended up going back to the car and sobbing my heart out for hours and getting angry every time I saw my reflection, the hate I feel for myself is gut wrenching! I know it is silly but I have felt this way since I was 4 and it will never change no matter how hard I have tried. It has caused so many problems in my life, dropping out of college, pushing me to stay in a very abusive relationship, pushing me away from any kind of relationship or friendship I have ever had, it has also cause me to have drug problems in the past, as it was the only way I felt I could forget about the self hate. please let me know what my options could be, I cant take it anymore
?? lmt - 22-Apr-17 @ 10:15 PM
hi i have pectus excavatum and would like a chest implant how do i go about getting this fixed on the NHS please as its stopping me doing things in life thank you.
bob - 15-Mar-17 @ 4:14 PM
Hi. Similarly to Gary, from 2015, I have one leg thinner than the other. The thinner leg is my right, due to cerebral palsy. What especially bothers me is the calf muscle, it is noticeably undersized compared to its left leg equivalent. One way, or another, I am going to have a calf implant, but if I can save £1000s by having this done on the NHS then so much the better. Is this a viable option for me? I have not worn shorts in public for over a decade. My insecurity is rife. 30 years old now and dogged by this and other problems.I am a British Citizen but I currently reside and work in SE Asia. If such a procedure is a possibility, is there a stipulation that I must be a permanent UK resident? or resident for the last 6 months? etc... Or do I qualify, given my current situation? I look forward to hearing from you.
AJ - 21-Feb-17 @ 11:36 AM
Hi imTanya, im 31 and enquiring about having a calf implant on the nhs. I was born with talapies, which causes calf wasting disease, which make one of my calf thinner than the other. Im very insecure about it. I have sins i have been a child. Many Thanks. Tanya
Tan - 17-Feb-17 @ 11:22 AM
Hi just enquiring if I could a calf implant on the nhs. I was born with talapies which causes calf wasting disease. Which makes one of my calves thinner than the other. I felt very insecure about all my like.
Tan - 17-Feb-17 @ 11:18 AM
Hi there, I am female, 24 and have issues with my forehead/hairline. It's the first thing I notice on people when I leave the house, I never wear my hair up for fear of looking even worse, I've physically not left the house on bad days because it gets me so down. It's been an issue for as long as I can remember and I think to myself every day why can't I just have a normal hairline? Is there anything like forehead reconstruction/correction available on the NHS?
Kelly - 8-Feb-17 @ 7:16 PM
I have a very asymmetrical skull, my forehead is very ugly, bigger on one side. Ive been hiding it behind hair all of my life (current 29yrs). Now my hairline is receding making it impossible to hide. I dont want live a life under this hat. Any info on this would be appreciated. Adam
Adam - 24-Jan-17 @ 7:13 PM
Jkl - Your Question:
Hi I have got kids and with my last I had a csection , from that I am left with a large overhang on my stomoch and its getting me really down and depressed would nhs help ?

Our Response:
Occasionally, it may be provided on the NHS for psychological or other health reasons. For example, the NHS might pay for a tummy tuck if the person has excess fat or skin after weight loss or pregnancy. You would have to visit your GP for a possible referral.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 10-Jan-17 @ 11:08 AM
Hi i have got kids and with my last i had a csection , from that i am left with a large overhang on my stomoch and its getting me really down and depressed would nhs help ?
Jkl - 9-Jan-17 @ 1:34 PM
Reese - Your Question:
Hello! I have a serious problem since I was 16 years old. One of my breast never grew. I have been dealing with this for so long I am now 27. I can't wear regular bathing suit tops I wear 5 gels inserts in one side of my bra just to match the other. a long time ago my doctor told me I may have a issue cause one of my breast wasn't growing but my mom never took me back for the issue. It's like I have a A cup and D cup. Can this be covered by insurance. This is so stressful I had a boyfriend for 5 years and he never saw them like it's a serious embarrassment.

Our Response:
Breast asymmetry can sometimes be due (although, not conclusively) to Poland's Syndrome, where the breast tissue fails to develop on one side. Surgical treatment can help reshape the breast and correct any asymmetry. Therefore, it would be worth re-visiting your GP to see whether you can be referred to a consultant. In some parts of England there is no restriction to NHS treatment (for what is considered a congenital condition). However, it is dependent upon your local area. Your GP will make a possible diagnosis and from there you can move forward. I hope this helps.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 30-Nov-16 @ 2:57 PM
Hello! I have a serious problem since I was 16 years old. One of my breast never grew. I have been dealing with this for so long I am now 27. I can't wear regular bathing suit tops I wear 5 gels inserts in one side of my bra just to match the other. a long time ago my doctor told me I may have a issue cause one of my breast wasn't growing but my mom never took me back for the issue.It's like I have a A cup and D cup. Can this be covered by insurance. This is so stressful i had a boyfriend for 5 years and he never saw them like it's a serious embarrassment.
Reese - 30-Nov-16 @ 9:20 AM
I had an emergency appendectomy which was botched by the nhs surgeon.I then had to have further tummy operation to fix that which has left me with a mishapen tummy - no matter how many hours i spend at the gym weekly - my tummy shape hasn't improved. I now will not be without clothes even in front of my partner. I won't wear a costume either. I feel really bitter towards the NHS because of this.I feel that they should correct their mistake instead of me having to go abroad to get this fixed.
HelenM - 5-Oct-16 @ 3:40 PM
My forehead has stopped me from enjoying life to the full. Not getting my hair wet in public, not walking into direct wind without trying to turn my head. Not being able to have hair off my face. So tired of people saying it's cosmetic. It's affected my life massively to the point I've thought of harming my head or myself. I've told my gp before and he just said I think it looks ok. Well it doesn't. I used to get bullied for it and 2 boyfriends in my adult life have picked on me for it. It's psychologically damaging. I want a reduction so bad.
Shells - 5-Oct-16 @ 12:34 AM
I'm 16 and have an extremely prominent chin in which I get extremely upset about, I have recently had braces off so am still referred to an orthodontist, could this help me if I decided to go and ask to have my chin reduced?I find myself always trying to hide it, and this sometimes means not smiling, laughing, etc. Which is having a negative effect on me mentally
Lara - 24-Sep-16 @ 8:27 PM
jj - Your Question:
Hi I am desperate to have my hairline lowered weather that be surgery or hair implant. I have read below that you have said this is cosmetic and has to be seen as really effecting you mentally. I can not explain enough how this effects my day to day life. However how would I go about proving this? It is so embarrassing to explain to my GP. And to be asking if I can get help to pay my way to get my issue sorted makes me feel silly. I hide my face behind a fringe every day and won't ever change my hairstyle due to the way it makes me feel if my face is bare. It is so upsetting to me to feel this way every day. Thanks for advice in advance

Our Response:
I think it would be very difficult to be able to get surgery on the NHS for a reason such as this unless it was a very noticeable condition that 'seriously' affected your life on a day-to-day basis. The only way to get a full answer regarding this would be to ask your GP. I shouldn't worry about feeling 'silly', as your GP is there to help if he or she can.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 15-Sep-16 @ 10:31 AM
Hello, I have always wanted an uplift as my boobs are very saggy for a girl my age (21) but I have had saggy boobs for years now and it has always got me down, I can't pay because they're so expensive. I can't look in the mirror and I can't even let my boyfriend anywhere near them them, I don't know what to do and I would love it if someone could help me. Many thanks, Liv
Liv - 15-Sep-16 @ 5:32 AM
Hi I am desperate to have my hairline lowered weather that be surgery or hair implant. I have read below that you have said this is cosmetic and has to be seen as really effecting you mentally. I can not explain enough how this effects my day to day life. However how would I go about proving this? It is so embarrassing to explain to my GP. And to be asking if I can get help to pay my way to get my issue sorted makes me feel silly. I hide my face behind a fringe every day and won't ever change my hairstyle due to the way it makes me feel if my face is bare. It is so upsetting to me to feel this way every day. Thanks for advice in advance
jj - 14-Sep-16 @ 12:20 PM
Gina - Your Question:
I would love to have my hairline lowered as my forehead is very large it has affected my confidence over the years is it possible to have it done on the NHS for free?? How do I go about having it done?

Our Response:
Most people are referred to NHS plastic surgeons by their GP or a specialist consultant they see about their condition - therefore you would have to take this route. However, as specified in the article, the NHS is unlikley to approve surgery for cosmetic reasons unless you can prove it has caused servere psychological distress.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 31-May-16 @ 11:44 AM
I would love to have my hairline lowered as my forehead is very large it has affected my confidence over the years is it possible to have it done on the NHS for free?? How do I go about having it done?
Gina - 30-May-16 @ 3:26 PM
Dee - Your Question:
Is there a chance to be a candidate of this program? I am desperate now to find solution. My nose deformed from my previous surgery and I don't know where to turn to. losing trust and hope.

Our Response:
You can only access the NHS of you live in the UK, then it is up to your registered doctor to refer you to a consultant if he/she feels it is necessary.
ExploreCosmeticSurgery - 25-May-16 @ 2:21 PM
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