Finding Your Perfect Surgeon

A leading UK surgeon gives his top tips for finding the right surgeon for a safe and successful surgical procedure  

By Ellie Holden

plastic surgeon assessment

When someone tells you they are a doctor, you probably trust you are in safe hands. But this wasn’t the case for a Florida lady, whose practitioner was recently arrested for allegedly posing as a plastic surgeon after she reported a botched nose job causing facial disfigurement. In fact, as the report goes, the practitioner was arrested half-way through performing surgery on another patient!

Although this happened in the US, according to consultant reconstructive and plastic surgeon and UK national secretary for ISAPS Mr Naveen Cavale, it highlights the importance of researching your practitioner and finding the right surgeon to provide you with safe care.

So, Mr Cavale has put together a checklist for anyone thinking about considering plastic surgery both in the UK and abroad to ensure safe and successful treatment.

Mr Naveen Cavale
Mr Naveen Cavale

Checklist to ask clinics offering plastic surgery

  1. Search the GMC register 

In the UK, you can search for any doctor on the General Medical Council’s website, which regulates all doctors in the UK­­. The person performing your surgery must be listed on the GMC’s specialist register for plastic surgery. If they’re not, then that’s a massive red flag! You should also look at whether they have any limitations to their practice.

  1. Find out their complications’ protocol

All surgical procedures have risks. But what are the arrangements if there is a complication? Does the clinic/practitioner have facilities to take you back into the operating theatre to correct things even in the middle of the night?

  1. Ask how experienced the surgeon is

Find out how frequently the surgeon performs the particular procedure you intend to book in for. They should be performing it every month at the very least and have many years of experience.

  1. See if the surgeon has insurance

Insurance is extremely important because things don’t go to plan, and you decide to seek compensation, the surgeon must have adequate cover that pays out. Your surgeon must be covered for this so make sure you ask. Again, if they’re not, it’s a definite red flag. 

  1. Know where the operation would take place

Ask what hospital or clinic the surgeon will be operating out of. Is it reputable? Is it regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if it’s in England? It’s a legal requirement for cosmetic surgery to be performed in a CQC-regulated establishment so be sure to check their register. You can even read the hospital’s latest inspection report! For Wales, check out Care Inspectorate Wales, The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in the Northern Ireland and in Scotland it’s Healthcare Improvement Scotland

  1. Search reviews

It’s a great idea to find out about the experiences of other patients by visiting reputable review websites. However, be wary of fake reviews! RealSelf and Doctify are great places to look.

  1. Listen to your gut

Does the practitioner seem ‘nice’ and ‘normal’? If you are getting a bad feeling about them, then it’s worth listening to your gut and finding someone who you relate to better! You can check out if they have a social media profile to get a feel for them before your consultation to find out how they come across. What kind of content do they deliver? Is it educational?

  1. Find out what their results are like

While you are searching their social media profile, check out their before and after images. Are their results what you are looking for? Do they seem real? Some people post fake before and after images so be wary of this! You can also ask the clinic to show you some results and the surgeon should also be able to show you photographs in your consultation, or point you in the direction of where you can find examples of their work.

  1. Understand cooling-off periods 

A cooling-off period is the time a surgeon must give a patient to go away and think about the decision of whether or not to have a procedure. As per the surgeon’s regulatory guidelines, this should be a minimum of two weeks. The surgeon should also make you feel comfortable to take all the time you need, and they should not be pushing you into having the procedure, especially if you aren’t ready! Be wary of those pressuring you to book in immediately after a consultation.

  1. Check they are involved with the surgery community

In the UK, there are a number of associations that a plastic surgeon may be a part of. These associations aim to educate practitioners and further enhance the field. Every surgeon who is a part of these groups have undergone extensive checks, so you can be confident that they have a high level of standards. These associations include ISAPS, BAAPS and BAPRAS.

Another thing to look for is if they teach new surgeons. It’s a good sign if they have lots of ‘visitors’, fellows, junior doctors and medical students learning from them.

Travelling aboard? There are additional considerations!

  1. Find out if they are equivalently qualified in their country

Every overseas country will have an equivalent to the GMC register so be sure to research this before booking an overseas treatment and check they are registered.

  1. Find out their complications’ protocol

What’s the procedure if you have a complication when you’re back in the UK? Ask them how easy is it in the following days/weeks/month to get things corrected? For example, if it’s a breast augmentation complication, all the NHS will offer is the removal of the implant. You may find revision surgery costs a lot more!

  1. Is the facility regulated?

As mentioned, the Care Quality Commission regulates medical clinics and hospital in England. You should therefore check if the facility where you will be having your operation is regulated and certified by an equivalent of the CQC.

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