�250k spent on cosmetic surgery

NEW figures have today exposed the growing demand for cosmetic surgery and the shocking cost to Suffolk NHS.

Kate McGrath

NEW figures have today exposed the growing demand for cosmetic surgery and the shocking cost to Suffolk NHS.

The EADT can reveal that more than �250,000 has been spent by the county's primary care trust on 76 'low-priority' procedures over the last two years.

Treatments - which rose by 71% from 2007 to 2008 - include tummy tucks, breast enlargements, a nose job and removing tattoos.

Suffolk NHS maintain that cosmetic procedures are only carried out in “exceptional circumstances”. It stresses that operations are never carried out for solely cosmetic purposes and that many of the people treated would have been suffering from psychological problems.

However campaigners at the Taxpayers' Alliance said the NHS needed to get its priorities right.

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Campaign director Mark Wallace said: “The fact the amount of spending has grown considerably in recent years is quite a concerning trend because the NHS is struggling to provide basic and life saving surgery.

“Obviously in a recession we need to prioritise and cancer drugs should always come above boob jobs.”

In 2007 and 2008, the total treatments carried out by Suffolk NHS amounted to: 24 breast reductions, nine breast augmentations (enlargements), 31 abdominoplasty (tummy tucks), one upper arm reduction, two cases of liposuction, one case of rhinoplasty (nose job), six cases of pinnaplasty (ear pinning) and one case of tattoo removal. Together these cost �257,100.

The figures were obtained by the EADT after a freedom of information request.

Andrew Hassan, medical director of Suffolk NHS and a GP, explained how very strong criteria needed to be met before any surgery was given the go ahead.

He said: “The GP makes the decision to refer the patient and they have to justify this decision. It is not the decision of the patient.

“There are two criteria that are overruling - the patient has a physical symptom and is in psychological distress. The patient might already be having treatment for their psychological problems on the NHS so almost in a way we are spending money on their surgery to save money in the long term.”

One example given by Dr Hassan was abdominoplasty, otherwise known as a tummy tuck.

“If a patient has lost a significant amount of weight sometimes the folds of skin can become painful. By removing these we are reducing the need for further treatment.”

A spokesperson for Suffolk NHS said the 'exceptional circumstances' included when a patient's life was in jeopardy without the surgery, or when a delay in treatment could result in “significant deterioration in a patient's physical or psychological condition”.

She added: “As the county's primary care trust, NHS Suffolk commissions the best possible healthcare for the people of Suffolk. There are many occasions where cosmetic surgery is necessary as part of normal treatment, such as trauma or cancer.

“The NHS also considers cosmetic surgery under exceptional conditions - and these are decided by the Individual Patient Panel.

“The actual number of cases that are deemed to be 'exceptional' depends on how many people get referred in the first place - there are no set figures.”

Procedure Approximate cost per procedure Number of procedures in 07 & 08

Breast reduction �3,700 24

Breast augmentation �3,400 9

Abdominoplasty �3,800 32

Upper arm reduction �3,000 1

Liposuction �1,500 2

Rhinoplasty �3,000 1

Pinnaplasty �1,100 6

Removal of tattoo �500 1