Jackie Partridge: Cosmetic surgery tourists face health risk

Recently, a series of horror stories on botched surgical ­procedures hit the headlines, detailing the shocking results that can occur when ­people travel abroad for surgical ­procedures.
Some foreign clinics may have lower standards than at home. Picture: Getty Images.Some foreign clinics may have lower standards than at home. Picture: Getty Images.
Some foreign clinics may have lower standards than at home. Picture: Getty Images.

Lorna Johnston, from Gartcosh, said she had been left ­“butchered and mutilated” after having ­cosmetic ­surgery in ­Turkey, while Euromillions ­winner Jane Park, from ­Edinburgh, was reportedly left suffering from an allergic reaction and sepsis after a procedure.

This isn’t the first time such incidents have made headlines. We are seeing more and more people seeking cheaper treatments abroad without considering possible health implications.

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Anyone considering surgery abroad should proceed with extreme caution, as there are numerous disadvantages.

Firstly, it is possible that the country has a less regulated cosmetic industry, and therefore practitioners may not have to conform to strict standards or adhere to best practice. This is inherently dangerous as it means there may be no governing body to hold them accountable if anything was to go wrong.

Seeing a plastic surgeon abroad also makes it much more ­difficult to visit in person for consultation meetings before surgery, and then for check-ups afterwards. The country may also have lower standards of patient care so aftercare would not be of the same quality as at home.

Another aspect to consider is the price of travel. Even if non-surgical treatments such as Botox® and fillers are less costly abroad, the price is not reduced enough to offset the travel cost. Then, of course, comes the potential expense of correcting botched treatments.

There are many reputable clinics and practitioners in the cosmetic industry, but, like in any sector, there exist some that do not maintain the highest standards. This is especially true overseas, where they are less closely monitored.

In Scotland, the new Healthcare Improvement Scotland legislation – which came into effect in April – requires ­independent clinics to be registered.

When a clinic is registered it is subject to regular inspections, after which a report will be published grading quality of care, environment, staffing, management and information.

This regime is vital as it holds independent clinics to even stricter health standards, allowing patients to be completely confident. It also adds an extra layer of transparency while holding clinics and practitioners accountable to the Scottish cosmetic industry.

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Dermal Clinic became the flagbearer for the Scottish cosmetic industry last year when it became the first ­practice to have successfully ‘registered’ under new HIS legislation.

Patient safety should always be the prime concern. The potentially deadly risks of surgery abroad far outweigh the benefits of cheaper procedures.

Jackie Partridge is the ­founding director of Edinburgh’s Dermal Clinic.