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How to pick a trusted plastic surgeon

How to pick a trusted plastic surgeon

Finding a plastic surgeon
What credentials should a plastic surgeon have?
Checking a plastic surgeon’s credentials

Your choice of plastic surgeon will depend on many factors that are individual to your circumstances, such as the type of surgery you require and the area of expertise in which the surgeon has specialised. However, there is also a level of training and qualification that every surgeon needs in order to practise in the UK.

The following guide will help you to decide if the plastic surgeon you are considering for your surgery is properly trained, licensed and right for you.

Finding a plastic surgeon

It is always recommended that you arrange an appointment with your GP before embarking on cosmetic surgery. They will be able to discuss any health issues that may impact on your surgery.

As with most things, recommendations give a level of assurance that is invaluable. Talk to your GP and they may be able to direct you to a trusted local surgeon with experience in the type of procedure you require.

Below is a table explaining some terms related this type of surgery:

Plastic surgeryA catch-all term referring to any surgery that ‘repairs or reshapes’ the human body.
Reconstructive SurgeryEssential surgery designed to restore the body’s form and function after a patient has suffered injury or illness.
Cosmetic/aesthetic surgeryNon-essential surgery carried out to alter the physical appearance of a patient. Knowledge gained from this type surgery can help to improve reconstructive techniques.

Alternatively, there are a number of resources available that can help you find all the cosmetic surgeons in or near your location.

Note — it is often better to choose a surgeon whose location is close to you as you may be required to visit your doctor a number of times over the course of a procedure, during which the distance you need to travel may become an issue.

Databases and directories exist that include all the available plastic surgeons in the UK. From these you can find a surgeon close to you.

Some directories are filtered by respected industry organisations, for example, the database of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. Using databases like these will ensure that the surgeon you choose is fully qualified, registered and trained to a high standard.

What credentials should a plastic surgeon have?

Any plastic surgeon that you use should be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). This national body was set up to ‘protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public’ by maintaining a register that requires members to be sufficiently trained and qualified for the field of medicine in which they practise.

 The GMC also has the ability to set professional standards through a number of functions, such as:

  • Good Medical Practise — The GMC provides this set of professional and ethical standards that doctors are required to follow. By not following these rules, doctors risk having their fitness to practise called into question, which could ultimately see them ‘struck off’ the register.
  • Recourse for complaint — The GMC can issue a series of warning and conditions if a doctor is seen to be acting in a way that calls into question their fitness to practice.

Aside from the GMC, there are a number of other industry bodies that guarantee professionalism and training. Two of the most well respected are:

Surgeons who belong to these organisations are subject to regular checks and training in order to ensure that they are up to speed on all the latest developments in the sector.

All members of BAAPS are also members of BAPRAS.

Checking a plastic surgeon’s credentials

Once you have identified a surgeon who you are interested in using, it is advised that you confirm their credentials for yourself before going any further.

The four most important aspects to look out for are:

  • Training
  • Authority
  • Experience
  • Trusts


All plastic surgeons in the UK must undertake a minimum of 13 years training before qualifying as a cosmetic surgeon:

  • Medical degree — 5 years
  • Foundation programme — 2 years
  • Junior surgeon – 3 years
  • Specialist training — 6 years

Further training is required for surgeons wishing to specialise in aesthetic procedures.

All doctors practising in the UK are required to register with the GMC. Plastic surgeons, who have undertaken specialty plastic surgery training, will also be on the GMC’s specialist register. Information contained in the online medical register will inform you as to whether they are on the specialist register.


Go online to access the membership lists of the relevant industry bodies.

Checking credentials is a simple process. Click on the below links to find out if the surgeon you are researching is a member of the following organisations:

OrganisationRegister/membership list
General Medical CouncilGMC
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic SurgeonsBAAPS
British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic SurgeonsBAPRAS
Royal College of Surgeons of EnglandRCS

It is also important to make sure that the hospital they work out of is also registered. NHS hospitals have their own set of standards to which they must adhere in order to stay open.


Most surgeons of note will be able to show you ‘before and after’ images of past surgeries. These can give you an idea of the type of work they usually undertake and what kind of results they achieve.


One way of judging the competence and experience of a surgeon is to seek out feedback from previous patients. Testimonials are an unbiased means of assessing the surgeon’s prior work.


All registered doctors are legally required to have insurance or indemnity (a different type of insurance that will still pay out to patients in the event that something goes wrong).

The GMC has powers to check whether this insurance is in place. It also has powers to prevent a license being awarded to any doctor that fails to show they have insurance in place, and remove a licence from a practicing doctor if they do not have the necessary insurance.


It is important to check that the clinic or hospital out of which the surgeon works is registered with the GMC.

Most registered facilities will come complete with trained specialists, such as anaesthetists and surgical nurses, who are there to support the surgeon in his duties.

To find out if a clinic or hospital is registered with the GMC, click here or ring 03000 616161.


A consultant anaesthetist will always be present if the surgery requires the patient to be sedated. This will usually be in the form of a general anaesthetic.

Anaesthetists are doctors who have completed their training and gone on to specialise in anaesthesia.

You can find out whether your anaesthetist is registered and licensed by checking the GMC register here.

Stephen McCulley has a team of highly experienced anaesthetists who have specialised training in plastic surgery anaesthesia. To find out more, visit the team by clicking here.


Things to checkTick here
If the surgeon’s identity is genuine 
If the surgeon is registered with the GMC and another regulated body 
If the surgeon has completed all the appropriate training 
If the qualifications they hold are genuine 
If the surgeon is up-to-date with the latest training and industry research 
If the premises are health and safety compliant and registered with the GMC 
If the correct insurance is in place 
If the anaesthetist used is fully trained and registered 
Is the product a prescription medicine and is a medical professional required in the assessment 
If the surgeon can show you testimonials from previous patients 

Please click here to download the above checklist.

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