Hundreds of people have had cosmetic surgery for free thanks to the UK’s NHS. Figures from the NHS Information Centre show that in the past year, the National Health Service (NHS) has spend £5.7 million on giving 471 patients liposuction and giving over 1,600 patients nose jobs, tummy tucks and breast reductions.
Doctors have explained the situation saying that the operations were not solely down to patients wanting to look better – there was a medical reason for the cosmetic surgery in all of the cases.
For example some of the patients who have had cosmetic surgery on the NHS were suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (sometimes also referred to as dysmorphic syndrome or dysmorphophobia), a psychiatric disorder where the patient is excessively concerned and preoccupied by a imagined or very minor defect in their appearance. Body dysmorphic disorder can cause severe psychological distress that can impair social functioning, sometimes to the point of total social isolation.
Cosmetic surgeons are keen to point out that the rules for having cosmetic surgery under the NHS are stringent and patients would not get surgery for purely cosmetic reasons. Simply “being distressed by their looks” is not enough to warrant cosmetic surgery – there has to be significant evidence of the patient suffering from body dysmorphic disorder before patients would be permitted to have cosmetic surgery.
Some cosmetic surgery performed by the NHS is also as a result of other illnesses such as HIV. HIV medication can cause fat deposits to build up on the neck and in these cases, the NHS may pay for liposuction on the patient’s neck.