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Thinking of going abroad for cosmetic surgery or treatment? Consider these important points first

It’s easy to be tempted by the idea of ‘sun, sea, sand’ and a quick ‘nip and tuck’; combining a holiday with a whole new-you. Sadly, it’s not always as easy or as glamourous as it sounds, and there are some important things to consider if you’re thinking of having cosmetic surgerycosmetic dentistry, hair transplantation or laser eye surgery abroad, says Lorna Jackson, Editor of ConsultingRoom.com.

Making your decision based solely on the reduced price of some treatments that are available abroad is not a wise choice. Depending on how far overseas you’re considering going, Europe or indeed further afield, then these considerations become more and more important.

In most cases any pre-treatment discussions or counselling is done in the UK via some kind of broker, a non-medical salesperson acting as a third-party between you and the clinic.

Usually, you will not meet the practitioner or surgeon who will carry out the procedure until you arrive in the country, and often not until before the treatment, which you have generally already committed to (and paid for), actually happens. This is not ideal as you have had no medical consultation before you spent money to step on a plane, no time to go away and think about it or cool-off, and you can’t easily back out if you change your mind, especially if getting a refund will be difficult.

If you’re set on going abroad for treatment, and you can afford it, then make a trip just for the consultation with the actual practitioner, before committing yourself to anything.

Consider taking someone with you when you meet with them, together with a note of any questions you’d like to ask during the consultation. You can then discuss your impressions together afterwards, they may be more impartial, go home and properly think it through before deciding whether to proceed or not.

Alternatively, try to use clinics abroad who have links with a UK based clinic so that consultations can be done with a UK based practitioner or with the actual individual who will treat you when you go abroad, if they make regular trips to the UK clinic for consultations.

It’s important that you understand exactly what is being provided as part of any package deal, including any before and after care. You will need to know where a procedure will be carried out, and where you will be cared for in the recovery phase – sometimes you can be left to your own devices in a hotel, which is not ideal, especially if you have travelled alone. Knowing who will be there to look after you, if anyone, and what their clinical qualifications are is key.

While abroad, you must be able to communicate with the person who will be treating you, and anyone else who is in charge of your care, in order to ask questions and understand the answers. Will you need a translator?

You need to be able to ask them about their qualifications and expertise in the procedure you are interested in. You may want to ask how many times they have performed the operation, what the risks of the procedure are, and how often complications occur. Not all countries have the same regulatory framework as those in the UK and Ireland, so clinical and practice standards may vary considerably. Remember that any UK based regulators who are responsible for regulating and checking private practitioners and/or clinics here, do not cover procedures carried out abroad or vet the practitioners involved. Unfortunately, they will not be able to help you if you have any problems whilst overseas.

Going abroad for a cosmetic treatment is just like going abroad for business or a holiday, you will need to think about travel insurance policies. Not all standard travel cover includes help if something goes wrong during or after an elective medical procedure though, so you should look to take out a bespoke policy and tell any insurance broker about your exact plans for treatment in the country you are visiting.

If you’re going to Europe, the European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), which replaced the old E111 system, does not cover you for going abroad for medical treatments. It is designed to reimburse the cost of state-provided healthcare services for emergency treatment that becomes necessary whilst you are abroad in the European Economic Area (EEA), following illness or accident. The EHIC will not cover your medical expenses if you are going abroad specifically to have elective (cosmetic) treatment and then end up in a local hospital with complications.

It’s important to also check whether the practitioner and clinic abroad have insurance, which covers your procedure, and whether it takes into consideration that you are from another country and offers the cover that you would expect in the event of a need to make a claim against the clinic or practitioner.

Therefore, asking what will happen if something goes wrong either during or after the procedure could be a game-changer.

For example, what follow-up care is available at the clinic should there be complications while you are abroad? How will you get back to the UK if you need to? If you have complications on your return to the UK, do they have arrangements with a local clinic or private hospital to care for you, or will you just be left to seek emergency help from the NHS? The latter can be a traumatic experience. What about the legal implications of trying to make a claim against the foreign clinic if your complications turn out to be due to negligence or malpractice?

Normally with any cosmetic treatment, there is a need to return to the clinic to check how the procedure has gone and whether any further treatment or revision is required. Factoring in the cost of a repeat trip abroad is often forgotten, or simply ignored in the end due to expense, which could affect the long-term outcome of the treatment. What would you do?

Although it may cost a little more to have certain cosmetic treatments in the UK, Consulting Room believe that the risks, (and unexpected costs) of going abroad, make staying on home soil for treatment a preferable and more advisable option. A full advice guide on buying cosmetic treatments, including how to look for clinics and what kind of questions to ask, is available to download. An educated decision is the right decision.

lorna jacksonLorna Jackson is the Editor of Consulting Room (www.consultingroom.com), the UK’s largest cosmetic information website for consumers, featuring a directory of UK & Ireland based clinics offering cosmetic surgery, medical aesthetic treatments, hair loss solutions, cosmetic dentistry, laser eye surgery and male and female genital treatments. The site also includes a Cosmetic Community where members can share experiences, leave reviews, get exclusive special offers and download advice and guidance.

Lorna is a commentator on a number of different areas related to the cosmetic treatment industry; evaluating statistics and trends, plus researching, investigating and writing feature articles, blogs, and a monthly trade magazine for Consulting Room, as well as contributing to various consumer and trade publications. Lorna has also been asked to present at various industry educational events and was awarded Journalist of the Year at the MyFaceMyBody Awards 2014.

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