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Going under knife won't bring you success

But on my return to these shores, I was surprised to find the public had embraced the phenomenon wholeheartedly and were glued in gruesome fascination to UK versions such as 10 Years Younger.

Not only are people gripped by these on-screen transformations, their existence has led to such a massive shift in public attitude that cosmetic surgery is now an accepted part of day to day life. The UK market is valued in excess of 250 million and last year the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said the number of surgical procedures had risen by more than a third to 22,000 operations.

The majority of cosmetic surgery continues to be carried out on women, with boob jobs top of the list at more than 5600 operations. More surprising is the impact of the metrosexual male with an apparent preoccupation about the size and shape of his nose. This has accounted for a 55 per cent rise in operations. And if anyone thought Edinburgh folk were more down to Earth, they'd be wrong.

Figures released by Bupa's Murrayfield Hospital show a 30 per cent rise in the number of cosmetic surgery operations in the last year - roughly in line with the national figures.

But probe a little further and you'll find Bupa cagey about saying what that 30 per cent actually means in terms of numbers. Could it be that the these figures are a closely guarded secret because they'd rather not let their rivals know exactly how they are doing?

Our obsession with having a derriere like Kylie Minogue or Jennifer Lopez has led to fierce competition between the commercial clinics that are springing up across the UK.

And with so many companies setting up shop, established clinics appear to be unwilling to expose the true extent of their own business success for fear of leaving themselves vulnerable to entrepreneurial predators.

Last year, the Transform Medical Group came under fire for introducing a loyalty card at its Edinburgh clinic which it said was to reward customers who were making repeated trips to see their favourite surgeon. The scheme was understandably less than popular with the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, which took the view that it would encourage bargain-hunters to go for more procedures than they otherwise might have done.

More frightening are the dubious deals which offer a complete body makeover for summer or bargain basement surgery travel packages to clinics abroad where clients have little idea of the surgeons' qualifications or the standard of cleanliness.

Of course, when it all goes horribly wrong - usually because the foreign package offers little in the way of aftercare - it is the consultant surgeons in Edinburgh who have to put people back together. Common sense dictates that bigger operations generate more complex problems and here surgeons are seeing increasing numbers of people who have developed life-threatening blood clots or contracted infections caused by botched surgery.

Another common misconception is that cosmetic surgery will transform the patient's life by inspiring success and giving them unlimited confidence.

You only need to speak to people who have been disfigured through accident, illness or genetic condition to know how empty that claim is.

Many of these people would rather not have to go to hospital but they have to endure painful reconstruction surgery time and time again for the good of their health.

Changing Faces, the national support group for people who are disfigured, advises its clients that confidence is the key to overcoming low self-esteem and the difficulties imposed on them by society.

In reality, cosmetic surgery cannot be the key to a top job or a loving relationship because confidence comes from within and success is certainly achieved only through hard work.