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Does insurance cover breast reduction in the UK? | What are the benefits of seeking breast reduction surgery privately?

Does insurance cover breast reduction in the UK? | What are the benefits of seeking breast reduction surgery privately?


As one of the most common cosmetic procedures in the UK, breast reductions are highly sought after. For this reason, there are many ways women and men (Gynaecomastia) can undergo a breast reduction, either by the NHS, at a private cosmetic clinic, or with a health insurance provider. However, all three solutions vary in their eligibility, frequency, cost, and services included. Those looking to undergo breast reduction surgery may want to consider all three options, comparing them to find the best result for them.

This guide will explore when you can cover breast reduction costs with insurance providers or on the NHS, and when it is beneficial to look privately.

Click on one of the links below to jump to that section:

What regulations must be met for insurance to cover breast reduction?

Occasionally, breast reduction operations may be included by your insurance provider (such as BUPA and Vitality) or on the NHS. For this, patients must meet certain criteria.

The NHS eligibility criteria vary around the UK and it increasingly can be difficult to get NHS funding. Some consideration maybe given to problems from large breasts such as;

  • Backache

  • Shoulder or neck pain

  • Skin irritation

  • Rashes and skin infections under the breast

  • Grooves on the shoulders from bra straps

  • Psychological distress

  • Inability to exercise or take part in sports

In the Nottingham area, the symptoms are now not a path to eligibility and certain scans are performed to assess breast volume to torso. You also need to have a normal BMI. However, rules do vary around the country. If you believe you may be eligible, see your GP, who can refer you to a breast or plastic surgeon for assessment to determine suitability.

Breast reduction is often categorised as a cosmetic surgery and, therefore, not covered on the NHS or by an insurance company. However, this should not discourage potential patients from undergoing a breast reduction. Consider looking privately and researching cosmetic and plastic surgeons operating in a private clinic in these cases.

For more information, read our guide on choosing a plastic surgeon for breast reduction here.

What is the process for getting insurance to cover breast reduction?

Obtaining insurance coverage for breast reduction surgery in the UK can be a complex process, as insurance providers’ eligibility criteria and coverage policies vary. Though the process may vary depending on the insurance provider, typically, the steps will include the following:

  1. See your GP
  2. See a trusted plastic or cosmetic surgeon
  3. Assessments
  4. Seeing a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist
  5. Contact the insurance company with your references

Assessments may include various questions on your specific physical and mental health problems affected by large breasts, in addition to checks on your weight and general health condition. Regarding the NHS, final decision will be made by a panel of representatives who will take all the evidence, including the assessments and expert opinions, into account.

Generally, breast reduction is not covered by a private health insurance provider. To see if you are eligible, check your policy for the terms and conditions. If it is not covered under insurance, consider researching private cosmetic and plastic surgeons who are experienced in all types of reconstructive surgeries, including breast reduction.

Are there benefits to undergoing breast reduction at a private clinic?

While NHS funding may be available for breast reduction surgery in cases of medical necessity, some individuals opt to pursue this procedure through a private cosmetic or plastic surgery clinic. This choice has several advantages to help patients during this process:

Typically shorter waiting times

One of the primary advantages of choosing a private clinic is the potential for shorter waiting times compared to the NHS. In the public healthcare system, waiting lists for non-emergency surgeries, such as breast reduction, can be lengthy, leading to delays in treatment.

Private clinics often offer expedited access to surgery, allowing patients to schedule procedures more promptly.

Freedom to choose the surgeon

In private practice, patients have the freedom to choose their surgeon based on factors such as experience, expertise, and patient reviews. This enables individuals to select a surgeon they trust and feel comfortable with, fostering a sense of confidence and reassurance leading up to the procedure.

More patient feedback and testimonials

As you can choose a specific surgeon to perform a breast reduction, you can gain insights into their previous procedures by looking at any reviews or testimonials. Looking at patient feedback is a great way to choose the right plastic surgeon, comparing multiple clinics to see which is the best fit for your needs.

Breast reduction feedback:

“The operation went as smooth as possible, and the aftercare was first class. I would have no hesitation in recommending Mr McCulley, his team and the hospital to anyone.”

– – CS Derbyshire

Please browse through our breast reduction testimonials for more information on our past surgeries.

Male breast reduction

Typically, male breast reduction (Gynaecomastia) is not available on the NHS, and is often only considered if there is an underlying condition. Men looking to undergo a breast reduction will normally need to pay privately.

Gynaecomastia involves removing a small lump of breast tissue with a small incision through the nipple. With Stephen McCulley, the cost of male breast reduction ranges from £4,900 to £8,350, depending on who performs the surgery, and whether the procedure is minor or major bilateral.

Find out more about the male breast reduction procedure and what is expected from recovery here.

What is included in the cost of breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction surgery typically ranges between £7,000 and £10,000 in the UK. This varies depending on the surgeon, their experience, and what is included in the cost.

With Stephen McCulley, breast reduction surgery costs £9,250 (£7.790 with a recommended associate) as of August 2023. Included in this cost are several features:

  • Pre-op assessment and investigations

  • Operation

  • Hospital stay and any further treatment that is required

  • Follow-ups relating to the surgery

  • Any emergency treatments relating to plastic surgery in the first year

For more information, read our expert guide on how much breast reduction surgery costs here.

How can Stephen McCulley help?

One of the main advantages of choosing private care is that it typically offers modern, comfortable facilities with amenities designed to promote patient comfort and well-being. From private recovery rooms to luxurious amenities, these facilities strive to create a supportive environment conducive to healing and relaxation.

Stephen McCulley works extensively as a cosmetic, plastic, and reconstructive surgeon, offering private patients the latest plastic techniques in cosmetic surgery. Stephen believes in honest and open approaches to cosmetic surgery, and will give patients realistic and achievable options to patients using his expertise.

If you are interested in undergoing a breast reduction surgery, or simply would like more information, get in touch with us today.

Frequently asked questions

What are the potential complications and side effects of breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction is a common surgery in the UK, and is a fairly uncomplicated procedure. However, as with any surgery, there can be potential complications to be aware of. These include nipple loss (affecting less than 0.5%), loss or altered nipple sensation (affecting 20%), and the ability to breastfeed (affecting around 50% of women).

If you have experienced any complications or side effects during your breast reduction surgery recovery, make sure to contact your plastic surgeon.

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