The government’s health secretary has called for an end to NHS-funded cosmetic surgery. Jeremy Hunt has announced that he is strongly opposed to the National Health Service footing the bill for cosmetic surgery when the country and the government are under immense financial pressure.
He called for all decisions about the need for publicly-funded surgery to be based on clinical needs and said that taxpayers’ funds should not be used to pay for cosmetic procedures which are solely aimed at improving a person’s looks.
Mr Hunt said that some procedures should still be performed if medical experts confirmed mental health problems associated with a request for surgery but he said he totally understood reservations among the general public about money which could be spent elsewhere being used to fund cosmetic surgery. He boldly stated to a parliamentary press gallery lunch that cosmetic work should not be carried out on the NHS.
The National Health Surgery already funds only a very small number of cosmetic surgery procedures each year. The NHS website states clearly that publicly-funded operations will only be carried out if there is a major psychological or physical need for surgery to be carried out.
The NHS Choices states that most people already opt for private cosmetic procedures especially since National Health Service resources are already very limited and, even if the go-ahead is given, waiting times are often extremely long. It says that it is only in very rare cases that a CCG or Clinical Commissioning Group will allow NHS-funded cosmetic surgery and only when this is necessary to prompt an improvement in a person’s health.
The rare occasions when cosmetic surgery are currently available through the NHS include breast reductions when the patient is suffering from severe and persistent shoulder and back pain or breast implants when a person has a severe case of lop-sidedness or under-development.
Rhinoplasty or nose shaping is sometimes allowed to help alleviate breathing difficulties, as are tummy tucks, which can be NHS-funded if they are needed to remove excess skin or fat after a patient has undergone an essential abdominal operation, and eyelid reduction if a person has been suffering from vision problems as a result. Even these kinds of patients who are currently eligible for NHS procedures can still face lengthy waits for treatment, however.
The use of public money to pay for cosmetic surgery hit the headlines recently with the case of 23-year-old would-be-model Josie Cunningham. She had a £5,000 publicly-paid-for breast enlargement but later said she wanted to have her breasts reduced again. She had previously told her doctors that she needed the surgery to solve a problem with bullying over her flat-chested appearance.
A global expert panel has rated the National Health Service as the planet’s best healthcare system. The panel found that the care provided was much better than in even countries where much more money is spent on health. Doctors are currently reporting a range of difficulties within the system, however, largely caused by increasing patient demand, political indifference, falling budgets and staff shortages.