Psychological screening before cosmetic surgery vital say UK cosmetic surgeons and researchers at UWE Bristol

Issue date: 20 June 2012

New cosmetic screening tool explained at Appearance Matters 5 international conference on 3 and 4 July 2012

Findings from the first study to implement and evaluate a psychological screening tool for cosmetic surgery patients in routine private practice in the UK are to be reported at Appearance Matters 5, an international conference, organised by the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), UWE Bristol.

Private aesthetic procedures have tripled since 2003, with the UK market estimated to have grown by 17% between 2008 and 2011 to a value of £2.3 billion (Mintel, 2010). More people are seeking elective cosmetic surgery from unregulated private sector surgeons without a preliminary psychological assessment. Little is known about the impact that aesthetic surgery has on patients' psychosocial functioning, adjustment and appearance satisfaction in the long term.

Researchers at CAR argue that there is an urgent need to pre-screen all patients prior to surgery to assess their expectations of the possible outcomes. Findings from the study to be presented at Appearance Matters 5, demonstrate the benefits of pre-screening as a mandatory component of cosmetic surgery assessment. Most surgeons sampled have indicated that they would like to trial the cosmetic surgery tool, developed by Professor Nichola Rumsey and Dr Alex Clarke in their clinical practice, on a routine basis to improve patient outcomes.

CAR researchers, Professor Rumsey and Dr Clarke developed the cosmetic surgery screening tool based upon years of research and clinical experience.

Professor Rumsey states, “This new screening process is designed to provide a quick and efficient method through which prospective patients can be screened and assessed in more depth where necessary, and then guided to alternative care where appropriate. It will help surgeons to offer care tailored to the needs of their patients, and will generate much needed understanding of the psychological impact of cosmetic surgery.

“The screening process is designed to provide a more thorough exploration of the rationale for surgery, and offers a strong indication of whether or not surgery is the appropriate choice for a patient.”

The next phase of the research, co-funded by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and The Healing Foundation is commencing later this year. The next step will involve a larger scale multi-site evaluation of the screening tool which involves following patients over a year, to establish a psychological profile of patients presenting to private practices for cosmetic surgery and the psychosocial impact that cosmetic surgery has on these patients.

This work addresses two of the policy recommendations from the Parliamentary Report 'Reflections on Body Image' released by the British All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image on 29 May 2012 that includes a recommendation for 'Mandatory screening of patients undergoing cosmetic surgery' and 'Research to assess the long term impact of cosmetic surgery on patients'.

This research also resonates with the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death Report (2010) which stated...“it is disappointing to find that the majority of providers do not include a psychological assessment as part of routine initial consultation...”(page 5). They recommended that: “Psychological assessment is an important part of any patient's aesthetic surgery episode and should be routine. This part of a patient's care must be delivered by those adequately trained, and reliable psychological assessment tools should be developed.” (page 8)

For more information about the Appearance Matters 5 conference and to register online go to or e-mail


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