The NHS is being left to ‘pick up the pieces’ of a surgical tourism boom with returning patients needing help for complications, doctors have warned. T

The British Medical Association said more Britons are dying or requiring emergency care in the UK after jetting abroad for cut-price obesity surgery. 

The crisis is fuelling delays for routine care, such as hip and knee replacements, because these health tourists are increasingly occupying NHS beds, the union’s annual meeting heard. 

Around 5,000 people a year go overseas for obesity surgery, where procedures can be significantly cheaper than going private closer to home. 

But many are returning with serious infections resulting from the lower standards of some foreign clinics. 

Around 5,000 people a year travel overseas for obesity surgery, where procedures can be significantly cheaper (stock image)

Around 5,000 people a year travel overseas for obesity surgery, where procedures can be significantly cheaper (stock image)

Around 5,000 people a year travel overseas for obesity surgery, where procedures can be significantly cheaper (stock image)

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons analysed 324 cases of Brits needing medical treatment or corrective surgery after having gone under the knife overseas since 2018

Delegates at the BMA meeting in Belfast backed a motion ‘expressing concern’ about the ‘boom’ in surgical tourism, which is ‘leading to a rise in serious post-surgery complications and deaths’. 

They agreed there is a need for more UK-based weight management services, partially paid for by an increase in the sugar tax on fizzy drinks. 

Doctors said the internet made it easier than ever for people to arrange operations abroad, with social media increasing demand for cosmetic surgery as people want to present themselves in a particular way. 

Presenting the motion, Dr Samuel Parker said patients can face waits of three to four years for bariatric surgery on the NHS. 

He added: ‘Several overseas clinics provide bariatric surgery far cheaper than the cost of disposable instruments used in the NHS. 

Follow-up is typically non-existent. ‘There are reports of shortcuts, inappropriate use of disposable instruments and patients suffering serious complications necessitating emergency NHS treatment.’ 

Foreign Office travel advice says that the standard of medical facilities and available treatments can ‘vary widely globally’ and highlights how six British nationals died in Turkey in 2023 after medical procedures. 

Professor David Strain, chairman of the BMA’s Board of Science, said: ‘Surgical tourism has been a problem for some time, people disappear off to notably South Africa and Turkey, but there’s many other places to disappear too. 

‘And complications can arise late from any procedure, not just obesity surgery, even just something as simple as hair implants that people travel for. 

‘You can get infections and the problem is people come back and they are asking the NHS to pick up the pieces of procedures that were done with less standards that we would normally apply in the UK. 

‘Health tourism is on the rise as people are slightly more affluent, international travel is easier than it was, organising these things are easier thanks to the internet.’ 

He said that the increase in anaesthetic procedures abroad have been spurred on by a ‘social media nation’ where people feel the need to present themselves in a certain way. 

‘What we can never guarantee is the surgical standards in different countries, and even the equipment that may be used, and that’s where the risk comes,’ he said. 

Professor Strain added: ‘Anything that puts extra burden – if (a person) fills a hospital bed, for example, with an infection, there are only so many beds, and a hospital bed full of somebody who’s gone for a procedure (abroad) that needs to be fixed, means that an elective procedure is likely to get cancelled. 

‘In an already overburdened health service then, health tourism can cause significant issues.’ 

Liposuction that offers to remove up to 15 litres of fat, BBL's, eye colour changing laser treatments and hymenoplasties are all offered in clinics across Turkey

Liposuction that offers to remove up to 15 litres of fat, BBL's, eye colour changing laser treatments and hymenoplasties are all offered in clinics across Turkey

Liposuction that offers to remove up to 15 litres of fat, BBL’s, eye colour changing laser treatments and hymenoplasties are all offered in clinics across Turkey

Morgan Ribeiro, 20, died from complications in January this year after traveling from London to Turkey for gastric sleeve surgery. 

She paid £2,500 for the operation, which would cost between £8,000 and £10,000 privately in the UK. 

Her mum Erin Gibson said she was not told in advance that Morgan was going and said: ‘I would have done everything in my power to stop her going.’

An audit by The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) last year found 324 Brits have needed medical treatment or corrective surgery after having gone under the knife overseas since 2018.

This figure has surged 94 per cent in three years, the organisation claimed, as increasing numbers of Brits seek to look more like their celebrity idols

Turkey was the largest source of botched ops, BAAPS figures suggested. 

Almost 80 per cent of Brits who needed corrective ops in the last year were treated originally in surgical tourism hubs like Istanbul and Ankara.

Other big surgical destinations for Brits included the Czech Republic and Lithuania, according to BAAPS.

Brits who head abroad for cut-price surgery are coming home with life-threatening infections, implants bursting through the skin and blood clots.

Some are even returning with antibiotic-resistant bugs, medics warned.

Such bacteria are known to leap between patients in hospital settings, triggering potentially fatal infections.

BAAPS estimates the average cost to the health service of treating a Brit botched overseas is about £15,000, putting the total bill since 2018 at about £4.8million.

This bill represents the cost of resources like medication and dressings, as well as the time surgeons and other NHS staff must spend on such cases.

While the £15,000 figure is an average, surgeons have previously told this website more serious cases can cost upwards of £100,000 to the taxpayer. 

Brits who have died after going under the knife in Turkey

At least 25 Brits have died as a result of medical tourism trips to Turkey since January 2019, according to the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Here, MailOnline highlights some of the victims.

Leah Cambridge

Leah Cambridge, 29, suffered a blood clot during a £6,500 Brazilian butt lift surgery in Turkey. 

Leah Cambridge, 29, died after having the 'Brazilian butt lift' procedure in Turkey

Leah Cambridge, 29, died after having the 'Brazilian butt lift' procedure in Turkey

Leah Cambridge, 29, died after having the ‘Brazilian butt lift’ procedure in Turkey 

The mother-of-three, from Leeds, died just one day after travelling to an Elite Aftercare clinic in Turkey in August 2018. 

The trainee beautician, described as being ‘paranoid about her body’, paid in cash for the procedure after being inspired by pictures on Instagram. 

The procedure involved having fat extracted from the waist and injected into the buttocks.

But she suffered a fatal complication when fat was accidentally injected into a vein causing her to have three heart attacks on the operating table.

Ms Cambridge’s partner Scott Franks told Wakefield Coroner’s Court that the surgeon who carried out the procedure told him he had ‘injected the fat too far into the muscle and it entered her veins’. 

Mr Franks said when he flew out to Turkey after his partner died, Dr Ali Uckan, the surgeon who treated Leah, had told him: ‘It’s a guessing game, you can’t see where you are going into.’ 

Ms Cambridge father, Craig, took his own life in 2021 with an inquest held in July last year hearing how he was never able to get past the loss of his daughter. 

Diarra Akua Eunice Brown

Diarra Brown

Diarra Brown

Diarra Brown, 28, died after having liposuction in Turkey

Diarra Akua Eunice Brown, died aged 28, two days after getting liposuction at a clinic in the suburb of Bahcelievler in Istanbul, in October 2021. 

She reportedly underwent the operation to have fat removed from her hips. 

While the procedure initially appeared to be a success, Ms Brown ‘suddenly’ fell ill while having her dressings changed.

She died just hours later. 

Social media posts from family and friends described her as a ‘beautiful soul’ and a ‘close friend’.

‘This must be a dream,’ one post said. ‘Still can’t come to terms with this yet.’

‘I miss you angel. I’m devastated you were taken away way before your time,’ said another.

Shannon Bowe

Ms Bowe's loved ones have flooded Facebook with tributes to the 'beautiful angel' who was the 'life and soul of every party'

Ms Bowe's loved ones have flooded Facebook with tributes to the 'beautiful angel' who was the 'life and soul of every party'

Shannon Bowe, 28 died after undergoing gastric band surgery in Turkey

Shannon Bowe, from Denny, near Falkirk, died while undergoing gastric band surgery in Turkey in April 2023. 

The 28-year-old passed away during the procedure which involves placing a band around the stomach.

Where exactly Ms Bowe had the procedure in Turkey and the complication that led to her death have not been revealed.

In the aftermath of her death, Ms Bowe’s boyfriend Ross Stirling wrote on social media: ‘Sleep tight my angel, love you forever and always.’

Gastric band surgery involves a doctor placing a gastric band around the top of the stomach, creating a small pouch.

When the patient eats, this small pouch fills up more quickly than their stomach normally would, making them feel fuller with less food.

By encouraging them to eat less, the procedure can help patients lose weight.  

Melissa Kerr

Melissa Kerr, 31, of Gorleston, Norfolk, died after having a BBL in Turkey

Melissa Kerr, 31, of Gorleston, Norfolk, died after having a BBL in Turkey

Melissa Kerr, 31, of Gorleston, Norfolk, died after having a BBL in Turkey

Melissa Kerr, 31, died while undergoing a Brazilian butt lift in Turkey in 2019, just before her wedding.

Ms Kerr traveled to Istanbul’s Medicana Haznedar Hospital in November that year for gluteal augmentation, which can cost up to £3,150. 

The psychological wellbeing practitioner, from Gorleston, Norfolk, died from a blocked artery in her lung as a result of undergoing the surgery.  

Her twin sister Natasha who set up a justgiving.com page after her death described her a ‘a pure and beautiful soul inside and out’.

She said: ‘Words cannot describe the pain and heartbreak we are going through, life without her will never be the same again.

‘We miss her deeply and nothing will fill the emptiness we are left with.’

Melissa’s partner Skye Birch said: ‘I will continue to love you with all my heart until my last breath.’ 

Ms Kerr also worked as a volunteer helping domestic violence victims and supporting people through bereavement.

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose 

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, a 38-year-old social worker from Dartford, Kent, passed away after buying an overseas package deal with Mono Cosmetic Surgery

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, a 38-year-old social worker from Dartford, Kent, passed away after buying an overseas package deal with Mono Cosmetic Surgery

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, 38, died after liposuction in Turkey

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, a 38-year-old social worker, from Dartford, Kent, died in August 2020 after undergoing liposuction surgery in Turkey. 

The mother-of-three bought an overseas package deal with Mono Cosmetic Surgery after becoming fed-up with people asking her if she was pregnant, according to her husband. 

A post-mortem examination found that Mrs Bamgbose suffered perforations to her bowel during the surgery, with the cause of death given as peritonitis with multiple organ failure. 

Peritonitis is an infection of the peritoneum, the inner lining of the tummy which covers vital internal organs like the kidneys, liver and bowel.

Her husband Moyosore Olowo told an inquest he was unaware his wife had traveled abroad for cosmetic surgery, instead believing she had simply gone on a holiday with her friends. 

It was not until Mrs Bamgbose called her husband to say she was suffering from stomach pains following the procedure that he found out what had happened. 

Mr Olowo said his wife had visited a private medical practice in the UK for surgery but added that the cost had been too high for her to have the treatment in Britain.

Carol Keenan

Carol Keenan was offered and accepted the chance to get a third procedure free of charge at the same time to sculpt her abdominal muscles and ¿improve how they looked¿

Carol Keenan was offered and accepted the chance to get a third procedure free of charge at the same time to sculpt her abdominal muscles and ¿improve how they looked¿

Carol Keenan, 54, died after having a BBL and tummy tuck in Turkey

Carol Keenan, 54, died six days after undergoing a combined Brazilian butt lift and tummy tuck in Turkey.  

The grandmother, of Glenrothes, Fife, paid £7,000 for the procedures at  a private hospital in Istanbul in 2022 after becoming anxious about the way her body looked.

Ms Keenan also accepted the offer of free abdominal muscle repair surgery shortly before she was taken into the operating theatre.

But she died before she was due to have a final check up and fly home.

Speaking to MailOnline in April, her family said they are still waiting for the results of her autopsy 11 months on from her death.

Her daughter Leonie Keenan, 32, said: ‘My mother was a fit and healthy individual. She was a very petite size 10 and she kept in shape by walking everywhere and going swimming.

‘She was a very active grandmother who loved bouncing on the trampoline with the kids-but she was not happy with her body even though everyone told her she looked great.

‘She set her heart on having surgery after seeing stories about other people and celebrities having procedures. I don’t know if it was like a mid-life crisis.’

Source: Mail Online

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