Ban on NHS boob jobs: Crackdown will stop women citing 'psychological' reasons for enlargements to save Taxpayer up to £10,000 per operation

  • Officials believe women are 'bending the system' to get free operations
  • Advisers to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt are making plans to tighten rules
  • New rules banning ops for 'psychological' reasons will be in force soon

Women are to be banned from  claiming free breast enlargements on the NHS as part of a new spending crackdown.

Medical advisers working for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt are drawing up rules which will prevent women from citing ‘psychological’ need in order to receive cosmetic enhancement at the taxpayers’ expense.

Officials believe that an increasing number of women are ‘bending the system’ to secure enhancements which can cost up to £10,000 privately.

Support: Rachel says her bra, unlike others, does not painfully cut in to breasts with implants

Support: Rachel says her bra, unlike others, does not painfully cut in to breasts with implants

Some are thought to have been encouraged by internet sites which explain how women need to demonstrate emotional distress to get the operations signed off by doctors.

Women can receive implants on the NHS if they can prove their breast size is responsible for mental conditions such as depression.

Under the plans, the medical criteria will be tightened to eliminate all but the most extreme psychological cases.

Reconstructive surgery is also offered on the health service following breast cancer treatment.

The Government advisers are keen to draw a sharper distinction between genuine medical need, such as reductions for women whose large breasts cause back pain, and a desire to improve physical appearance.

A senior NHS source said: ‘We don’t have any problem with women who have a genuine need for cosmetic  surgery for medical reasons, such as reconstructive surgery after breast cancer treatment.

‘But there has been a realisation that a growing number of women are bending the system by claiming a psychological need that cannot be justified.’

The Government advisers have been alarmed by websites such as ‘’ – which advises women as to their eligibility for free operations.

Before the surgery
After the surgery

Before and after: Josie Cunningham, 23, was a 32A (left) before the NHS surgery to boost her bust to a 36DD (right), but now wants the implants removed again

Nicola Allen posted: ‘Is Josie Cunningham for real? NHS do your boobs for free when women that really need it have to pay, & now you sue?’

The site appears to be funded by advertising from private clinics which stand to benefit if the women fail to persuade NHS doctors that they have a legitimate case.

The clampdown could also have knock-on effects for other procedures  available on the NHS – such as ‘tummy tucks’ and wrinkle removal.

The total cost of breast surgery on the NHS was £283 million last year, although this figure includes operations related to cancer and other  physical illnesses.

NHS surgeons carried out 790 breast implant operations – technically called augmentation mammoplasty – costing the taxpayer approximately £3.5 million.

If done privately, a procedure typically costs between £4,000 and £5,000. There were also 968 breast-lift operations, called mastopexies, on the NHS, costing taxpayers about £2 million more.

The figures, from the Health And Social Care Information Centre, are distinct from operations where implants are used to help reconstruct the breast following mastectomy.

A Department of Health spokesman said they did not have figures on the number of breast operations carried out for psychological reasons.

Decisions about whether the procedures can be carried out on the NHS are taken at a local level, by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on the basis of reports submitted by doctors. Each CCG sets its own criteria, but all are agreed that wanting to look better is not reason enough.

The new rules are expected to be issued within the next few months.

Earlier this year it was revealed that 23-year-old Josie Cunningham had a £5,000 NHS operation to increase her breasts from a size 32A to 36DD.

She now wants them removed, at a further cost to taxpayers of £1,600 – because they have attracted too much ‘negative publicity’.

Ms Cunningham argued the operation was justified due to the emotional distress she suffered as a result of having small breasts, saying: ‘I’ve paid taxes since I was 15. My case was not just about cosmetic changes, it was about my peace of mind.’

And in July mother-of-three Kelly McManus, 27, had a £5,000 tummy-tuck on the NHS after complaining that bearing children had given her a belly-bulge.

She went to her GP saying her appearance was ‘leaving me depressed and ruining my sex life’, as she could not afford to go private.

Signs that the Government were preparing to take a tougher line emerged last year in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal.

The Welsh government agreed to replace women’s implants for free on the NHS. But Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt’s predecessor as Health Secretary, said the NHS would only fund removals.

Women who wanted new implants would have to pay for them.

Last night, the Department of Health said: ‘All NHS procedures should be carried out for clinical reasons based on a patient’s individual needs.’

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now