Thousands are heading to Europe in search of cheap surgery
Are you one of the 1000s of Brits heading abroad – but swapping swimwear and sunglasses for a surgical gown and stitches? With the lure of budget prices and luxury surroundings, travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery is a market that’s booming. We find out why…
In this feature…
Here’s what you can find within this feature. Simply click below to go straight there.
At-a-glance guide to having cosmetic surgery abroad
An introduction to cosmetic surgery abroad
Thinking about having cosmetic surgery abroad? Here are the questions you need answering before you sign the consent form…
Why are people going abroad for cosmetic surgery:
Why are people going abroad for cosmetic surgery: With many ‘cosmetic’ or ‘lifestyle’ treatments – such as IVF – not available to all on the NHS, or costing thousands in private clinics, travelling abroad is the only solution for some. Foreign clinics can offer treatment at vastly reduced rates compared with those found in the UK.
Is it really cheaper to go abroad for surgery:
Is it really cheaper to go abroad for surgery: With a varicose vein op costing from £2,500 in the UK, the same can be performed abroad for around £1,250. Most procedures can be carried out in Europe, so it’s likely you’ll still be in credit even after paying for flights and accommodation.
Is it safe to fly after operations:
Is it safe to fly after operations: Most doctors advise you wait 2-4 weeks before taking a long-haul flight – due to the risk of blood clots – whereas short-haul hops are usually fine as soon as you feel well enough to travel.
Where can I go for treatment:
Where can I go for treatment: Wherever you like.There are no restrictions on destinations Brits can choose for medical procedures – cosmetic or otherwise. However, Eastern Europe is a major centre for ‘health tourism’; offering cheap flights and equally frugal living costs – all just a few hours from home. Alternatively, heading to the Mediterranean coast adds an element of ‘holiday’ lifestyle to the trip, while also benefitting from low-cost air fares. Other popular destinations include Mexico and Latin America, or Asian countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia.
Is it safe to go abroad:
Is it safe to go abroad: Search online and you’ll find horror stories of botched ops in filthy overseas clinics, but look closely and many of these will be published by Brit providers with a vested interest in keeping you in the UK. However, it is true that Britain has some of Europe’s strictest regulations put on anyone performing medical procedures. This is why it’s important to thoroughly research the surgeon and clinic you plan to visit.
Where is safest:
Where is safest: There are good and not-so-good surgeons wherever you go – including Britain – but narrowing your search to EU countries will offer standards of care closer to those found in the UK.
Where can I find out more about individual countries and what they offer:
Where can I find out more about individual countries and what they offer: Have a look through this website for information on popular destinations for overseas surgery.
Choosing your overseas surgeon: The NHS has compiled a list of questions to ask potential surgeons about the procedure you’re considering. This means the person carrying out the operation; not an assistant or sales rep. Don’t translate the questions, either, the surgeon should be able to confidently communicate with you in clear English.
These are the NHS-suggested questions you should ask:
What are your qualifications and where can I verify them?
Do you have a specialism and where can I verify this information?
What treatment options do I have?
How many times have you carried out this procedure?
What are your rates of success, complication and infection?
Are there any side effects or risks associated with the procedure?
What are the post-operative infection rates at this clinic?
How would the clinic deal with an emergency if serious complications were to arise during the procedure?
What should I expect immediately after the procedure? For example, will I experience pain, swelling or bruising?
At what stage will I be able to judge the results of the treatment?
What type of care will I need after the treatment? Who will provide check-ups in the UK?
How long will I need to stay abroad before I’m well enough to travel back to the UK?
What happens if I’m unhappy with the treatment or there are complications after the procedure?
Who would pay for remedial treatment (corrective treatment) and associated costs?
Can you put me in touch with anyone else you have treated?
How will I communicate with the doctors, dentists, nurses and other health workers involved in my care?
What language will my medical notes be in?
Who can I contact for advice once I’m back in the UK?
Does the doctor, clinic or hospital have insurance that covers my procedure?
What happens if I change my mind at the last minute?
This list is just a start. Once you begin doing your research, you may have many more questions.
If you can’t get satisfactory answers to all your questions, ask yourself if it’s wise to go ahead with the treatment. (source NHS)
Don’t get ‘sold’ a treatment:
Don’t get ‘sold’ a treatment: Many companies offer events in the UK, where potential patients are met and ‘sold’ treatments as holidays in a high-pressure sales environment. The place to sign up for a procedure is in a consultation room with a qualified surgeon. Remember, you’ll be having surgery so roasting on a beach won’t always appeal or be safe.
Research emergency care:
Research emergency care: While clinics are unlikely to have an emergency department, you should make sure that these facilities are available nearby in the unlikely event something goes wrong.
Investigate aftercare: Quiz your prospective surgeon about aftercare arrangement. Find out how problems and queries will be dealt with after the procedure – especially when you return to the UK. Make sure you’re not just abandoned once the final stitch has been popped in. Don’t expect the NHS to help out if you’re not happy with the results on a cosmetic level.
Investigate the clinic’s insurance:
Investigate the clinic’s insurance: Find out if the provider you’re considering has insurance that will cover you should anything go wrong. This should include local emergency health care and repatriation costs.
Do the sums before you travel:
Do the sums before you travel: Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the treatment and that you take fluctuating currency rates into account.
Can I get the NHS to pay:
Can I get the NHS to pay: While you’re entitled to medical treatment in other European countries, you’ll only get reimbursed for treatments that are funded by the NHS. Travel costs will not be paid, either.
Talk to your surgeon:
Talk to your surgeon: Anyone facing a medical procedure should have a clear and honest one-to-one consultation with the surgeon or doctor who’ll be carrying it out. Make sure you can communicate clearly with each other and that you are not merely talking through a third party – such as a salesman. If you can’t do this – walk away.
European health services – rated
European healthcare rated
If you’re planning to head abroad for cosmetic surgery, it’s important you research your destination’s medical care. Here’s how European countries rate for healthcare according to research from independent survey centre Numbeo.
The results are based on data such as skills and competence of staff, speed, equipment, and cost.
France tops the table as best, so see how your intended destination ranks in the ratings before signing up for surgery…
Open the tab below to reveal scores for healthcare ratings in European destinations
1) France 82.58
2) Malta 82.18
3) Denmark 79.28
4) Austria 78.42
5) Cyprus 78.36
6) Belgium 77.86
7) Sweden 76.29
8) Luxembourg 76.11
9) Germany 75.61
10) Norway 75.46
11) Turkey 74.00
12) United Kingdom 73.88
13) Spain 73.21
14) Estonia 73.08
15) Lithuania 70.11
16) Finland 69.37
17) Albania 67.41
18) Czech Republic 67.24
19) Netherlands 67.23
20) Latvia 67.13
Considering joining the ranks of jet-set surgery seekers? Here are top European destinations and how much treatment and travel costs compared with prices in the UK…
How much and where
Medical travel insurance
You’ll need special medical insurance for your trip
If you’re considering heading abroad for cosmetic surgery, it’s essential you get the correct insurance. The first thing you need to know is that your ‘standard’ holiday insurance will not cover you.
Various forms of medical insurance are available for those travelling abroad for medical treatment or surgery. Here are some of the options on offer.
Travel insurance to cover medical tourism: This type of insurance covers trips specifically for medical treatment in the same way that a standard policy would; protecting you against issues such as lost luggage and theft etc. These insurance policies still won’t cover anything occurring as a direct result of your treatment, such as an costs incurred by additional recovery time delaying your return home.
Medical complications cover: This insurance can cover you if medical costs are more than you were quoted, because of cancellations or complications at the hospital or clinic. This type of insurance gives peace of mind that all eventualities will be covered.
Medical travel insurance: These policies are built specifically around medical tourism. They cover all the usual elements of travel, but also offer protection for cancellation of treatment, complications during recovery, extended recovery, post-op problems while abroad, post-op problems at home and the cost of returning overseas to have post-op corrective treatment.
How much: Sample quotes for medical travel insurance typically start at around £50 for dental work and £140+ for elective surgery. Having treatment in non-European countries can double the cost of cover.
We speak to one man who bought his international ticket to cosmetic change… here’s his story.
Name: Richard Age: 30 Treatment: Hair transplant surgery Where: Turkey
Why did you decide to have cosmetic surgery? I noticed my hair started thinning and receding at the temples during my mid-20s. It knocked my confidence and resulted in a missed promotion because I wasn’t performing well. I met a colleague on a night out and mentioned my problems and he confessed to having a hair transplant. It looked so natural I’d never have guessed and immediately felt more confident knowing there was a possible solution for me.
What made you choose a clinic in Turkey? After meeting the guy, I went for a consultation near Heathrow Airport, but was left stunned when quoted £8,000 to improve the receding hairline. I just didn’t have that kind of money. It felt unfair that only wealthy people could afford treatment. A few weeks later I was in a barbers where the Turkish stylist suggested I look into getting treatment in his homeland. It was amazing; an initial phone and email/photo consultation returned a price of around £2,000. It eventually cost me £3,000 including flights, hotel and living costs.
How would you rate the experience? I was worried it’d be basic, but the clinic was clean and professional. The only problem was with communication as not everyone spoke English that well. The procedure was a bit painful, but only took a few hours. After that I had to go back and have the dressing changed and my head washed on two occasions.
Any complications? Luckily no, but I had been assured I could ring up and speak to someone at any time. I had insurance that would have covered my return if required, too. It’s now all healed and looks great.
Did you speak to your doctor? Yes. I told him about how I felt and my circumstances. He did not encourage me to do it, but said I was healthy enough to travel and have surgery – but it was at my own risk. It was good to check.
So, was it a good decision? For me, without a doubt, yes. The hair has boosted my confidence. It’s simple, without going to Turkey I just couldn’t have afforded the treatment.
Names and details changed
Look ‘virtually’ perfect without the pain…
If you simply want to look good in your beach snaps from this year’s sun-drenched sojourn, why not dodge the surgeon’s knife and go under the ‘app’?
Impress your digital pals with a virtual makeover that’ll have them ‘OMG’-ing with envy at your new body.
Here’s what happened when we put our volunteer, Colin, under the care of Dr iPhone and his collection of appearance-enhancing apps…
Colin and the various stages of his app-powered smartphone makeover
1: Colin… the real deal Here’s Colin as he really looks. Let’s find out how his smartphone can give him the edge in his attempt to sharpen up his body…
2: Bulking up Colin thinks he looks a little less than ‘stacked’, so he’s decided to use ‘Weight Loss’ app to not lose weight, but add 9lb to his frame. Here’s how his photo looks after the app has added bulk. Get the app here
3: Get the tan
Colin’s far too sensible to be exposing his pale skin tone to damaging UV rays, so he needs a quick fix to get that golden kissed complexion that’s sure to grab attention. Here’s how he looks after a session in the smartphone tanning parlour. Get the app here
4: Get the abs
It’s Colin’s killer move… these new abs give Colin the look he’s after to woo his Facebook fans Get the app here
1: Colin… the real deal
Colin in natural state
Here’s Colin as he really looks. Let’s find out how his smartphone can give him the edge…
2: Bulking up
Colin with 9lb added
Colin thinks he looks a little less than ‘stacked’, so he’s decided to use ‘Weight Loss’ app to not lose weight, but add 9lb to his frame. Here’s how his photo looks after the app has added bulk. Get the app here
3: Get the tan
Colin uses app to add a tan
Colin’s far too sensible to be exposing his pale skin tone to damaging UV rays, so he needs a quick fix to get that golden kissed complexion that’s sure to grab attention. Here’s how he looks after a session in the smartphone tanning parlour.
It’s Colin’s killer move… check out those new ab. Get the app
DIY cosmetic work…
Want to spend even less on cosmetic surgery? Here are some products you may or may not want to try at home.
DIY cosmetic work… you might not want to try some of these
1) Hair fibres: Want a quick fix for thin hair? Simply shake some Toppik fibres over your head and get an impressive – albeit temporary – new hair do. How much: £19.99 Where:Cover up here
2)Get a slimmer face: One for the privacy of your own home, we think, but slip this in your mouth, form vowel sounds and you’ll get a slim, toned face, apparently. How much: £12.00 Where:Pay to look ridiculous here
3) Nose job: Want a cuter nose? This might look like a medieval torture device, but it is, in fact, allegedly designed to encourage cartilage growth and give you a cute turned up nose after just three minutes use a day. We think there might just be the slightest possibility this isn’t backed by medical science, however. How much: £45 Where:Get it here
4) Neckline slimmer: Want to tone up your neck and jaw? The Neck Genie claims to reverse the effects of ageing without resorting surgery. Just two minutes use a day can eliminate sagging skin and reduce your double chin, it says… How much: £8.50 Where:Get your Neck Genie here
5) Plucking baldness cure: Researchers in the US have found plucking follicles can prompt new growth. Boffins from the University of California claim plucking 200 hairs in a small area prompted 1,200 replacements to grow. Warning – it’s only been tried on mice, so far. How much: £1.99 for tweezers Where: Your local chemist
6) Brow stretcher: Suffering a furrowed brow? Turn back time by stretching your forehead while you sleep. Apparently it prevents wrinkles forming. How much: £20 Where:Stretch your head here
This feature is intended as a overview of what’s on offer and we advise you should always consult your doctor and discuss plans to travel abroad for surgery.