Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List: How To Get On It

NHS waiting times have been a cause of concern for many people seeking treatments, including those who want breast surgery. It’s not easy to get on the breast reduction NHS waiting list, and you do not know exactly how long you have to wait. 

It’s worse for people who live in the poorer areas, as they may have to wait even longer. However, since many people seek breast reduction because of a clinical need, they want to know how it is possible to get the surgery on the NHS. 

When Is It Possible to Get Breast Reduction on the NHS?

It is possible for you to get breast reduction on the NHS if it’s for “health reasons.” If it’s for cosmetic purposes, the NHS states that it is “normally not available.” Keep in mind that the rules may vary in different areas, so it is possible for this surgery to not be available at all. It is decided by the clinical commissioning group (CCG). However, you may be considered in the following cases: 

  • You are experiencing back, neck, and shoulder pain. 
  • You have grooves in your shoulders from the bra straps 
  • Your physical activity is limited because of your breast size. 
  • You have skin rashes, irritation and infection.
  • You are experiencing psychological distress. 

This is for women. Male breast reduction or gynecomastia surgery is “normally not available” on the NHS. However, to make it to the breast reduction NHS waiting list eventually, you will be further assessed to make sure that you meet the local criteria. These assessments can include your BMI (body mass index – it may be required that it is less than 27), cup size and age. 

How To Get On the NHS Breast Reduction Waiting List?

Unless you meet the criteria set by your local CGCs, you won’t be able to get on the breast reduction NHS waiting list. Anyway, you’ll have to do the following: 

  • Make an appointment with your GP for an assessment. They’ll also know about the criteria in that area and let you know if you can get breast reduction on the NHS. 
  • If the GP finds that you’re suitable for the surgery, you’ll be referred to a plastic surgeon and psychiatrist/psychologist for further assessment. 
  • Your GP will send an Individual Funding Request (IFR) to your local CGC. You will only be placed on the breast reduction NHS waiting list after getting the funding approved. 

Keep in mind that sending a funding request does not guarantee that it will be approved. Most of the time, it is granted only when there is an “exceptional clinical circumstance,” and your GP needs to explain in the application why you may benefit from it more than someone with the same condition. 

In What Cases Will You Not Be Added to the Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List?

It will depend on what the criteria are in your area. However, usually, patients are required to stop smoking 3 months before the surgery to be put on the breast reduction NHS waiting list. This cannot happen if you’re an active smoker. You also need to make sure that your BMI is less than 27, as your surgery will be delayed otherwise. Other than that, you need to make sure that your alcohol intake is as much as is outlined in the NHS guidelines. 

If you want to wait a little longer before getting the treatment or you don’t show up for your scheduled appointments or hospital admission, your position on the breast reduction NHS waiting list will change. It is also possible to “pause the position” in some cases, such as illness. 

For How Long Can You Be on the Waiting List?

According to the NHS, the maximum wait time for a non-urgent referral is 18 weeks. It begins the day you make an appointment (through NHS e-Referral Service) or when the medical facility receives your referral letter. Keep in mind that the duration of the wait time can depend on different factors, such as: 

  • The availability of the specialist 
  • The severity of your health condition 
  • The kind of treatment you’re getting
  • Hospital burden 
  • The area where you live 

You may have to end up waiting for months to years before finally getting the surgery. In the event it has been delayed, you should ask for treatment from somewhere else. In this case, you can also lodge a complaint with the NHS. 

In the event that your breast reduction surgery is delayed or cancelled last-minute, you should be able to get another date for it within 28 days (if it’s cancelled before you got admitted, it can be longer than 28 days) at another clinic or hospital that you get to decide. 

Can You Switch to Another Hospital with Less Waiting Time?

It is legal for a patient to choose their medical facility and the healthcare provider. Since wait times can be different in different hospitals, you can choose the one that best suits you. NHS’ My Planned Care is a great resource for comparing wait times. 

However, keep in mind that this isn’t something that you get to decide later on. In fact, your appointment is booked at the facility of your choice. So, make sure to look into this in advance. 

Why Is It Difficult to Get on the Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List? 

Exacerbated by the pandemic, the NHS has a backlog of millions of patients who need treatments for more life-threatening conditions like cancer. It has been reported that one of the reasons why so many women are not able to get breast reduction on the NHS (in Scotland, more specifically) is that “referrals for cosmetic procedures” have increased. 

Even the impression that breast reduction is being asked for more “cosmetic” than “health reasons” (even when that’s not the case) is why many women have not been able to make it to the breast reduction NHS waiting list. 

If You Don’t Get On Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List, Can You Get the Surgery Privately? 

This is what a lot of women end up doing because they don’t get the funding request approved and aren’t able to make it to the breast reduction NHS waiting list. However, in the UK, the problem is that the clinics can cost a lot for this surgery. According to the NHS, it can cost as much as £6,500, and this doesn’t include the cost of all the appointments and aftercare. 

Usually, for this reason, many people choose to get their treatment in another country, where it’s around £1,800. Here, the choice of the clinic is important because if you’re not happy with the results of the surgery, the NHS is unlikely to help unless you need emergency care. Make sure that the clinic offers aftercare as well.

What Else You Can Do If You Can’t Get On Breast Reduction NHS Waiting List? 

Your GP can advise you on some other non-surgical treatment and care options if you’re not eligible for the surgery. Since breast reduction can cause a lot of health problems, even if the surgery is not easily available, the patient needs help. In this case, you may be advised the following: 

  • Exercise and Diet: Through muscle-building exercises, you may decrease the size of your breasts. However, since the breasts are mostly made up of fat, it is that you want to target through cardio and full body workouts. In addition to exercising, you need to keep an eye on what you eat. Consuming more fatty foods can result in their storage in the breasts, increasing their size. To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. 
  • Regulate Oestrogen Levels: It is this hormone, along with progesterone, that helps in the development of the breasts. Therefore, its presence can affect the size of the breasts. This can happen if you’re on contraceptives. It’s only temporary, though and occurs because of the growth of the breast tissue and fluid retention. Consumption of flaxseed may help decrease the levels of oestrogen, but it doesn’t always work or may only have a minimal effect.  
  • Changing Bra: An ill-fitting bra can be problematic. You may want to consider getting a professionally fitted bra to see if that will help with the various problems caused by large breast sizes.
  • Physiotherapy: Since women seeking breast reduction experience many aches and pains, they can consider physiotherapy, which can help them move around more comfortably. It can also help relieve your back pain. Your physiotherapist may recommend different movements and exercises.  


Funding, worker shortages, and COVID have all burdened the NHS, which has also translated into poor quality of healthcare for a lot of people. Many women seek breast reduction because of various health concerns, but they’re still not able to make it to the breast reduction NHS waiting list. 

Those who do may have to wait for a long time, during which they have to continue experiencing pain and other problems. Because of this, many people turn to private clinics for help, but not everyone can afford them. This is why they end up considering travelling to another country to get the procedure done. However, doing your research is important for that. 

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