The UK’s imminent departure from the European Union has been blamed by a number of people for a significant drop in the number of patients seeking plastic surgery. It is possible that the thought of leaving the EU will cause fewer people to undergo such procedures, but there are other credible reasons.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reported a drop in cosmetic surgeries, including rhinoplasty, breast augmentation and face lifts, during 2016. Factors that BAAPS attributed to this decline encompassed a climate of relentless negative news and unrest in the world. The association referred to research indicating that a looming Brexit had already had a dampening effect on the general population, leading people to do fewer things that indicated faith in the future. This has affected decisions on changing personal circumstances, such as making investments, moving to a new home, or going ahead with plastic surgery.
In a climate of economic uncertainty, it seems decisions requiring big changes and large outlays of cash have been put on pause; however, it is not all bad news, as less invasive and less expensive treatments that do not require surgery, such as microdermabrasion, dermal fillers and peels, have risen.
For physicians, procedures such as wrinkle relaxing and Botox are easier and can be completed more quickly, resulting in higher turnover. This type of procedure does not require staying in hospital and usually the effects wear off after a while; therefore, the patient needs to return for further treatment. Surgical procedures are inherently riskier and as the effects of fillers and peels are less permanent and noticeable, the psychological pitfalls, along with the physical ones, are reduced.
Another unexpected benefit is that the falling pound has made UK surgeons more attractive to patients from abroad, with at least one Harley Street clinic reporting that Brexit has increased its business dramatically. The UK’s track record in professionalism, good results and attentive post-surgery care make the UK very attractive to discerning foreign clientele seeking cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgery tourism is likely to increase for as long as the pound stays weak or drops; a rising pound, of course, could put the brakes on this trend. Other clinics have reported more enquiries from abroad, with the cost of surgery such as a facelift dropping by more than 10 per cent for clients paying in foreign currency.
BAAPS said the number of cosmetic surgeries decreased by 40 per cent in 2016. Brexit may not be entirely to blame for the decrease in procedures – plastic surgery reached record-breaking figures in 2015 and not every industry can expand indefinitely.
Brexit is likely to mean uncertainty in many areas of life for some time to come, which could well reduce interest in plastic surgery in the next year or two; however, human vanity being what it is, along with the continuing effect of celebrity culture, it seems likely that the desire for cosmetic procedures will again increase. In the meanwhile, a brisk business in non-invasive techniques for improving the appearance seems to be a trend that clinics can bank on, along with foreign patients capitalising on a depressed pound.