Sandcastles, Sightseeing and Surgery - Summers over but is medical tourism here to stay?

Posted on the 20 October 2011 at 11:11

Picture this scene – It’s an idyllic sunny day in Spain; the kids are swimming in the sea and building sandcastles, Mum is drinking Sangria and sunbathing and Dad? Well Dad is at the local hospital getting calf implants!

I’m sure when Cliff Richard wrote his classic song summer holiday, the last thing he expected was 2 weeks of Botox, silicone and facelifts, but here we are in 2011 and the number of people travelling abroad for cosmetic procedures is on the rise. All together now, “we’re all going on a cosmetic surgery holiday......”

As the summer draws to a close and the beach resorts of Spain and the canaries are closing for the winter, have you given any thought to your next getaway? For some people, a holiday is about more than sandcastles and sightseeing – it’s about cheap cosmetic surgery.

A quick search of Google shows treatment tourist destinations as varied as Tunisia, Slovakia, California and Thailand.

Medical tourism – the practice of obtaining private (and up to 70% cheaper) medical attention abroad – has increased in popularity over the past few years and now scores of companies are offering all inclusive packages of accommodation, flights and surgical treatments in one neat and tidy package.

However with some procedures costing hundreds of pounds less than here in the UK, experts are warning people not to make hasty decisions and take the procedures lightly. If a surgery goes wrong the patient often has little rebuke, follow ups or checkups, protection or even medical records as they would in the UK.   Experts are seeing a rise in treatment-tourists needing corrective surgery after they’ve come home, meaning they have to fly back out again or pay to see a different surgeon in the UK. Douglas McGeorge, plastic surgeon and BAAPS member, has spoken out against the trend after two patients wounds re-opened after they underwent a tummy tuck in Eastern Europe. Therefore the cost of cheap surgery can be more than the bargain seeker expects. 

2010 statistics from Datamonitor show that the UK spends more money on cosmetic surgery than any other European Country. This coupled with the economic downturn over the past few years has thousands of surgery seekers heading to Eastern Europe. Approximately, 10,000 people headed to the Czech Republic in 2010 with medical tourism now accounting for 1/5th of the total procedures performed in the country in 2010.

Complications are a risk of any surgery, home or abroad, and whilst we are not underestimating the skills and knowledge of many skilled surgeons around the world, we do believe the patient should be well prepared if anything does go wrong. You should remember that laws, standards and training differ from country to country and it may not be easy to communicate your chosen goals in broken English. Read our list of advice for anyone who is considering surgery abroad.

A study published in the August 2011 edition of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal has investigated the phenomenon closer. Of 2000 people studied, more than half had required multiple operations seeking treatment for complications that had arisen as a result of foreign surgery and 1 patient required over a month of hospitalisation in a surgical intensive care unit.   31% of these complications were a direct result of infection during surgery. Compensation for complications was highly varied and not all of the respondents were covered by insurance. 

It ‘s always concerning to see society taking a relaxed and laissez faire attitude to serious elective aesthetic surgery and seeing as these cosmetic surgery holidays are being marketed at families, these package deals seem set to prove increasingly popular over the next few years.

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Blog Comment(s) [2]

It's frightening the amount of patients that come in to our practice with botched jobs carried out when overseas. People don't seem to realise the importance of after-care - and the fact that this is never going to be important to an oversees company.

Q Clinics


Rightly said the over the past few year medical tourism across the globe cheaper as it was before.

Sunita, India, Member Since 24 November 2016