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Blocks on GP referrals drive patients to DIY plastic surgery

Some patients are taking the drastic step of performing plastic surgery on themselves because they cannot get a referral to a specialist on the NHS, a new report warns.

In some areas, patients are unable to get referrals despite meeting stringent PCT criteria, and the NHS reforms are likely to worsen the problem, a team of surgeons writes. In one case, a 60-year old man tied silk round the base of his nipples in the hope they would ‘fall off' after his GP felt unable to refer him for nipple reduction surgery. He ended up needing surgery to repair the damage.

In a second example, a 33-year old man carried out repeated DIY procedures to remove sebaceous cysts from his head and neck using phenol as a disinfectant and a knife sterilised with a cigarette lighter.

The man, who had used a sewing kit to close his wounds, ended up in hospital with a swollen cellulitic left eye and an infected cyst. He had been refused referral despite numerous infections because excision of his lesions had been deemed cosmetic.

Surgeons from University Hospital of North Staffordshire described the cases in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery.

They said both cases represented ‘appropriate referrals driven to extreme lengths', and added: ‘The cases may seem extraordinary, but we are concerned they may not be so unique with the current changes.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator, said: ‘You need local systems in place to address the patients' psychological needs.'

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