South Africa has an international reputation for medicine and pioneering surgery - the world’s first heart operation was performed in 1967 in Cape Town - and its facilities are renowned for being modern and well maintained. In recent years its ‘Surgery and Safari’ packages have become increasingly popular with Brits, presenting a glamorous and affordable package to men and women looking for quality, cut-price surgery abroad.
A temperate climate and a consistently strong British pound against the local rand, has ensured increasing numbers of Brits have been lured to South Africa with the promise of top-quality surgery and the chance to relax in luxury accommodation at a fraction of the cost of procedures in the UK. Breast augmentation, which costs between £3,500-£5,000 in a UK private hospital will cost between £2,200-£3,000 in South Africa, while rhinoplasty comes in at between £1,110-1,800 in South Africa (for procedure and hospital stay only) compared with £4,000-£6,000 in the UK. That English is widely spoken throughout the country is another plus-point, helping to eliminate the chance of misunderstandings before, during and after treatment.
All major procedures - from facelifts and liposuction to cosmetic dental treatments - are available, and a number of specialist companies have been set up to deal exclusively with UK clients, offering surgery and aftercare ‘packages’ that, in theory at least, help to take the hassle out of planning treatment abroad. Clients are offered an initial consultation in the UK at a clinic that will also be to handle any post-surgical queries after he or she returns from abroad. In some cases companies will offer a ‘buddy’ for patients while overseas, providing them with someone to attend pre- and post-surgical consultations and be a first point of contact for any queries.
How to stay safe
This can provide added peace of mind to patients who are concerned about travelling abroad for treatment, but would-be clients need to remember that these companies are largely facilitators. Read the small print before going ahead - they are unlikely to accept liability for any complications and follow-up treatment will still be undertaken abroad, usually at the customer’s cost. As ever, having a good, valid insurance policy in place is vital before you travel.
In general the quality of surgeons in South Africa is high, with practitioners undergoing an average 10 years training before they become fully licensed. Most companies ensure the clinics it works with are registered and state-approved and that their surgeons are members of the Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of South Africa (APRSSA) and registered with the South African Medical Association (SAMA). Patients would, however, be wise not to assume this will be the case; ask to see the relevant certifications and patient testimonials for a particular doctor.
One of the attractions of South Africa as a destination for cosmetic tourism is the beauty of the country itself - companies will continually remind you of the benefits of being able to combine surgery with everything from a safari to a beach holiday. But before being lured by this as a reason to choose SA, be clear about the recovery time a particular procedure will need. Remember, any holiday should fit around the surgery, not the other way round.