Cosmetic Procedures and Surgery Overseas vs at Home — Is It Worth Going Abroad?

Suitcase & needle on beach

More Britons than ever are having cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery abroad, with an increase of 109% reported in recent years. Due to this “medical tourism” trend, one question has been increasingly posed — is it better to have a cosmetic procedure in the UK or abroad? The main argument touted for having a cosmetic procedure abroad is that it can often be cheaper than a UK clinic. However, cheaper does not always mean better, and seeking surgery overseas may not be the best decision in the long run.

When considering a cosmetic procedure — whether it’s liposuction, breast augmentation or non-surgical treatment — you should always do your research and ensure those providing your care are qualified professionals. Having any cosmetic treatment or surgery overseas comes with additional risks, so it’s vital that you’re aware of these before arranging any treatment. If you’re unsure of the best way forward for you, read on for more information about cosmetic procedures in the UK and abroad. 

Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery in the UK

The main advantage of having a cosmetic procedure in the UK is that it’s easier to verify that a clinic is reputable, as they are required to be registered by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Researching the qualifications of the practitioner administering treatment is also more straightforward, so you can go into your procedure feeling confident in your choice of clinic.

Visiting your preferred clinic for a consultation is an essential part of the process when considering a cosmetic treatment. By choosing to have a procedure in the UK, you can easily do this and take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. No matter which clinic you seek treatment from, it’s important that they put you at ease and make you feel comfortable and confident before beginning the treatment.

Having a cosmetic treatment locally also means any follow-up visits are easy to arrange. And if something goes wrong with a procedure, there is the reassurance of being able to access the clinic without the need for a costly flight abroad. While we all like to save money where we can, you can’t put a price on the peace of mind and additional protection offered by having a procedure in the UK. 

Cosmetic Procedures and Plastic Surgery Abroad

Now you know the benefits of staying closer to home for any treatments. But why do some people choose to go abroad for cosmetic procedures, and what are the risks involved if you do choose to travel?

Patients Beyond Borders estimates that the worldwide medical tourism market, which covers all types of procedures, including cosmetic treatments, is growing at a rate of 15-25%. As mentioned above, the most often cited reason for seeking non-surgical cosmetic treatment or plastic surgery abroad is the lower cost of treatment. Some people having procedures may also choose to travel because it provides an opportunity for a holiday, with package holidays for surgery overseas becoming increasingly common. 

What Are the Risks of Having Cosmetic Procedures or Plastic Surgery Abroad? 

You Can’t Trust Everything You See Online

With medical tourism on the rise, holiday providers and overseas clinics have taken the opportunity to amp up their online marketing. Still, you must be careful about paying for a procedure without first meeting the practitioner or seeing the hospital for yourself. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure that everything you see online is genuine, whether it’s impressive pictures of the clinic you’d be visiting or hundreds of glowing client reviews. Be especially wary of package holidays including plastic surgery abroad. As per NHS advice, make sure you have a consultation with the surgeon and don’t pay for a hospital you’ve never seen. 

A Low Price May Also Mean Low-Quality Treatment

While a cosmetic procedure or plastic surgery abroad may be cheaper, it may also carry increased risks. Other countries have different regulations than UK clinics, and due to the difference in qualifications, it can be difficult to verify whether a clinic is well-established with fully trained medical staff. In the UK, various regulatory bodies ensure the cosmetic surgery industry meets strict standards. 

Research and Communication Can Be Difficult

Depending on where you plan to travel, distance and language barriers may be a problem and could make it difficult for you to thoroughly research your chosen clinic. If communication is limited, you may also feel unsupported before and after your procedure. Even if a practitioner is fully qualified and highly skilled, you’re less likely to feel comfortable and confident if you only meet them once before the procedure. 

Holiday Activities Can Be Dangerous if You Have Plastic Surgery Abroad

While it may sound great to enjoy a holiday and have a cosmetic procedure all in one trip, you should think again if you’re planning to do any exciting activities after your treatment. Non-surgical cosmetic treatments require little to no downtime, but if you’re having surgery overseas, you must give yourself plenty of time to rest. This means no sightseeing or sunbathing and also means you’ll likely have to stay in the country you’ve travelled to for weeks rather than days. Being abroad during this time can be stressful — you may find yourself wanting nothing more than to be somewhere familiar, with loved ones around to take care of you. 

Air Travel Comes at a Risk after Having Surgery Overseas

Air travel and major surgery increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism. And travelling soon before or after an operation abroad combines these risks. If you’re travelling for plastic surgery overseas, it’s recommended that you don’t fly home for up to 10 days after your procedure, depending on what it is. Extending your trip to allow for this delay will, of course, make it more expensive. 

With Medical Tourism, Aftercare Is Limited

Even if you find a professional clinic, have your cosmetic procedure abroad and treatment goes exactly as you’d hoped, there are still risks involved in the weeks following. In fact, a survey by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) informed that there had been a 25%-35% increase in patients reporting complications after having cosmetic procedures abroad.

By choosing to have surgery overseas, you’re making it extremely difficult to re-visit the clinic you were treated at for follow-up appointments or to receive the appropriate care if there are complications following treatment. In these cases, medical tourism often ends up burdening the NHS. 

At Harley Street MD, your treatment is conducted by a registered medical doctor in a CQC registered premises. We are located on Harley Street, one of the most famous medical hubs in the world and provide a completely bespoke service. In fact, there are many international visitors to Harley Street, as London is recognised as one of the best places worldwide for medical care — so why go elsewhere? You’ll have a consultation before any treatment and will be able to discuss any concerns throughout the process. 

Why risk travelling abroad when you can visit Harley Street MD? With our cosmetic treatment experts, you’ll be in safe hands. Book a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your needs, and we’ll help you find the right non-surgical procedure for you.

Founder at Harley St M.D.
Dr. Chia Tan is a UK trained medical doctor that specialises in cosmetic and aesthetic medicine and testosterone replacement therapy. He is qualified as a medical doctor since 2003 and has since trained extensively. He has been featured in several leading magazines as well as invited to appear on TV to discuss aesthetic medicine and the latest cosmetic procedures.
Dr. Chia Tan
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