It might well be described as vanity insurance. Britons prepared to go under the knife in their quest for youth and beauty will now be able to buy cover against the chance of a botched operation with the world's first cosmetic surgery protection policy.
Beautysure insurance, which costs £199 and pays out up to £4,000 if something goes wrong, such as bleeding, scarring and infection, is being launched tomorrow. Underwritten by Lloyd's of London, it will be available through the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps).
With more operations throwing up complications as record numbers of people place their trust, and bodies, in the hands of cosmetic surgeons, experts believe there will be no shortage of interest. In breast operations alone, Baaps estimates there have been more than 1,400 "problem" cases in Britain over the past five years.
For some, the results can be catastrophic. The singer Pete Burns, whose implants left his lips so deformed that some doctors were said to have recommended amputation, is seeking £1m in damages from the surgeon Dr Maurizio Viel. The High Court in London will consider the matter next month.
"Cosmetic surgery is a minefield and the insurance could give patients a bit more security that if there's a problem they know it can be put right," said consultant plastic surgeon and Baaps president Nigel Mercer. "The public must beware of sales incentives that may pressurise them to make important, potentially life-changing decisions without fully considering all the risks. We recommend people check out any surgeon and hospital carefully," he said.
The risks of something going wrong can range from 1 to 20 per cent, according to which doctor you choose, says Juliet Bentley, a 42-year-old from Northampton who first came up with the idea for the scheme when she was unable to get insurance before her breast augmentation nine years ago.