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Cosmetic surgery

11 January 2012

All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery must be licensed with CQC to provide services.

To help ensure that patients are treated safely, and to reduce the risk of poor practice, anyone who provides any of the following cosmetic procedures must be registered with us by law.

  • Any type of cosmetic surgery involving full or local anaesthetic.
  • Treatments that use lasers, such as refractive eye surgery.
  • Laser lipolysis (such as Smart Lipo).

We only license and regulate cosmetic treatments that involve surgical procedures. We do not regulate the following services.

  • Muscle relaxing injections, for example  Botox®.
  • Remodelling techniques using cells, tissue or synthetic products (dermal fillers).
  • Chemical peels.
  • Non-surgical laser and intense light treatments (such as hair removal).

Things to consider before making a decision

Cosmetic surgery of any sort should not be undertaken lightly. It’s important to remember that all surgery, including cosmetic procedures, involve risks. To minimise these risks, try to find out as much as you can about the provider and the procedure.

Find out about the provider

Check that the hospital or clinic is registered with us. Search for their details on our website or ask them to show you their registration certificate. It is very important that you do not sign up for cosmetic surgery at a hospital or clinic that cannot show you that it is registered with us.

Remember, if the hospital or clinic is not registered with us, their insurance may not cover them or you if anything goes wrong. This is because they are practising outside of the law.

If you are considering plastic surgery, ask your GP to provide a referral to a surgeon. This will also ensure that your GP passes important information about your medical history to the surgeon.

If you don’t want to involve your GP, make sure that you choose a qualified and reputable surgeon that has been properly trained in the type of surgery you want. You should also check whether they are on the General Medical Council’s specialist register

The hospital or clinic should offer you an initial consultation with the doctor who will carry out the procedure. Take a list of the questions you’d like to ask the doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask about their qualifications and expertise in the procedure (such as how many times they have performed it, what are the risks, and how often do complications occur).

Make sure that the hospital or clinic will provide the care that you will need after the operation.

Ask them to give you a copy of their patient’s guide. This is a document that all cosmetic clinics and hospitals must provide. It gives details of all of the services they offer, the costs, and how patients can make comments and complaints.

Be wary of 'special offers' which urge you to sign up to a procedure immediately. Cosmetic surgery is a serious decision which needs proper consideration - a good surgeon will want you to be absolutely sure about going ahead. If you feel that you are being placed under pressure to commit to anything before you are ready, walk away!

Find out about the procedure

Read as much as you can about the procedure that you are considering. You need to be sure that it is right for you and that you understand exactly what is involved, including any risks, side-effects and possible complications. Make sure that the information is from a reliable source.

The Department of Health provides information on more than 100 different types of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. It also gives a detailed checklist of questions to ask the clinic and doctor before deciding.