The pros and cons of transitioning from the NHS to a career in aesthetics - Hamilton Fraser


2023 marked the 75th anniversary of The National Health Service (NHS) – the first free-of-charge universal health system of its kind. It has become a part of British culture and heritage and is often referred to as a “national treasure”; the backbone of healthcare provision, offering essential medical services to more than a million people a day.

But in recent years, the NHS has been under a lot of strain, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic, and many healthcare professionals have been looking for alternative careers or sources of income to support their NHS work.

In October 2023, The Guardian reported that a rising number of NHS medics were training in cosmetic procedures, drawn by more flexibility, the potential to make a higher income and to have more autonomy over working hours and conditions.

The fact the sector was “becoming more legitimised”, with the Government launching a consultation on a new licensing scheme for non-surgical cosmetic procedures in 2023, was also given as a reason healthcare professionals were becoming more attracted to a career in aesthetics.

The results of our annual survey gave similar insights, naming the interest in non-surgical cosmetic treatments as the main reason practitioners were moving from the NHS into aesthetics, with 59.8% giving this as the top answer. A new challenge and flexible working hours were the next biggest motivators, with 53.9% and 53.3% saying this drew them to the field. 

Job satisfaction also came in high, with more than half (50.3%) stating this as their reason.

Although half of respondents still worked for the NHS (50.7%), 24.8% of those who had left the NHS said they would not consider returning, citing factors such as work-life balance, antisocial hours, lack of flexibility and stress. 

In this article, we'll delve into the pros and cons of leaving the NHS for a career in aesthetics, exploring the opportunities and challenges it presents you if you are a healthcare professional considering making this switch.

 Pros of leaving the NHS for aesthetics

1. Flexibility and autonomy in practice

In private practice, such as aesthetic medicine, you can have greater flexibility and autonomy, designing your working life around your preferences and interests. This allows you to take a more personalised approach to patient care and treatment planning, fostering creativity and innovation. With aesthetics expanding into more and more areas surrounding longevity, menopause and wellness, this allows you to take a more preventative approach to managing patients, too.

2. Potential for higher earnings

In our annual survey, 32% listed financial reasons as their primary driver for embarking on a career in aesthetics. Aesthetics is a rapidly growing sector, and treatments often command premium fees, offering you the potential for significantly higher earnings compared to NHS salaries. According to recent statistics, the global medical aesthetics market was estimated to be worth $15.4 (£12.4) billion in 2023 and is poised to reach $25.9 (£20.41) billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.0% from 2023 to 2028. Technological advancements are driving this growth, increasing consumer demand for non-invasive cosmetic procedures and a growing emphasis on self-care and personal well-being. Check out our article on pricing strategies.

3. Focus on elective procedures

Unlike the NHS, which primarily focuses on providing essential healthcare services and treating illness, aesthetic medicine focuses on elective procedures. In short, your patients are not sick; they are choosing to have treatment to enhance their appearance and well-being. Not only can this be less stressful, but it can also lead to greater job satisfaction and fulfilment.

4. Enhanced work-life balance

Long working hours and changing shift patterns can be exhausting for medical professionals working in the NHS. Moving to a career in aesthetics can offer a better work-life balance compared to the demanding schedules often associated with NHS roles. You have more control over your working hours and can tailor your practice to accommodate personal commitments, improving overall well-being and job satisfaction. It may be that you have a young family and want to spend more time with them or that you have hobbies and interests you’d like to pursue outside of work. Working in the private sector gives you more options.

Cons of leaving the NHS for aesthetics

1. Loss of job security

One of the main concerns you may have when thinking about leaving the NHS is the loss of job security and guaranteed income. And this is valid. Unlike NHS positions, which offer stable employment and salaries, transitioning to aesthetics involves inherent risks and uncertainties, including fluctuations in income and patient demand. If you choose to run your own business, becoming self-employed comes with its own challenges. For example, you won't get sick pay or maternity pay or get paid when you take time off for a holiday.

2. Transition to entrepreneurship

Moving from the structured environment of the NHS to the entrepreneurial landscape of aesthetics needs a significant shift in mindset and skillset. You will need to adapt to the demands of running a business, including marketing, financial management, and patient relations, which may pose challenges for those accustomed to the structure of their NHS role. Many people find this hard. If you have made the leap to working for yourself, you may have to start managing staff, thinking about tax and finances in ways you haven’t before, and marketing yourself and your services. Many practitioners also find it difficult to start charging patients when they have come from an environment where they have never had to discuss money before, so think about how you feel about placing a value on your services and speaking to patients about costs.

3. Ethical considerations

Aesthetic medicine is still an unregulated market, and although the Government's consultation on a new licensing scheme for non-surgical cosmetic procedures means things are shifting in this area, there are currently no formalised training pathways. This means the sector is sometimes subject to ethical scrutiny, and there are societal perceptions that it is about vanity or superficiality. Some people report family members or other medical colleagues not seeing aesthetics as a recognised field of medicine. You will need to take all this into consideration and make sure you uphold ethical standards in patient care and treatment delivery, balancing patient desires with professional integrity.

4. Challenges in building a practice

Establishing a successful aesthetics practice is about more than clinical expertise. It’s a competitive market, and you will need to create effective marketing, network, and build your business acumen. You may find it difficult to attract patients in a crowded marketplace, meaning you will need to be strategic and plan to overcome challenges. Check out our article on writing a business plan for more advice on this.

Considerations for NHS practitioners

Before making the transition from the NHS to aesthetics, you should carefully consider several factors:

  • Personal motivations: Reflect on your reasons for pursuing a career in aesthetics and make sure they align with your values and aspirations
  • Financial implications: Assess the financial implications of leaving your NHS job, including start-up costs, income potential, and financial planning to make sure there is a smooth transition and long-term success
  • Professional support: Seek mentorship and guidance from experienced aesthetic practitioners to navigate the transition process effectively and learn from their experiences
  • Regulatory requirements: Familiarise yourself with the current guidelines for aesthetic medicine, including guidance from your Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) and make sure you comply with legal and ethical standards to maintain the highest levels of patient safety and satisfaction

Choosing to move away from the NHS to a career in aesthetics presents both opportunities and challenges for healthcare professionals. By weighing the pros and cons carefully, seeking professional guidance, and leveraging support services from organisations like Hamilton Fraser, you can make informed decisions and embark on a rewarding journey in aesthetic medicine, achieving your professional and personal goals while delivering exceptional care to your patients.

Insights from Hamilton Fraser

Hamilton Fraser, the UK’s leading provider of specialist insurance and education for aesthetic practitioners, offers valuable insights and support for professionals considering a career in aesthetics. With expertise in risk management, insurance coverage, and regulatory compliance, Hamilton Fraser equips you with the tools and resources needed to succeed in the field, providing peace of mind and protection against unforeseen risks and liabilities.


1. What insurance considerations should I keep in mind when transitioning from the NHS to aesthetics?

Before moving into a career in aesthetics, make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage for your aesthetic practice. This includes professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance to protect against potential risks and liabilities.

2. How can I maximise ethical practice and patient safety in the field of aesthetic medicine?

Make sure you adhere to strict ethical standards, get informed consent from patients, and prioritise patient safety in all aspects of treatment delivery, to make sure you meet the highest levels of professionalism and integrity.

3. What support services does Hamilton Fraser offer to aesthetic practitioners?

Hamilton Fraser provides a range of support services, including insurance coverage, regulatory guidance, and educational resources tailored to the needs of aesthetic practitioners, offering comprehensive protection and support throughout their careers. 

Our Aesthetic Business Conference is the UK’s first and largest dedicated business conference for aesthetic entrepreneurs seeking to establish an aesthetics business or take their existing venture to the next level. This provides an invaluable opportunity to ask industry experts questions and get first-hand advice about a career in aesthetics. This year’s event will be held at the Royal College of Physicians on Tuesday, 8 October. Tickets went live on Eventbrite on 20 February and cost £115.


4. What are the typical start-up costs associated with establishing an aesthetic practice?

Start-up costs can vary depending on factors such as clinic location, equipment requirements, and marketing expenses. It's essential to conduct thorough, including financial planning and budgeting, to create a smooth transition and sustainable business growth.

5. How can I build a client base and attract patients to my aesthetics clinic?

Invest in effective marketing strategies, including digital marketing, social media engagement, and networking within the local community, to raise awareness of your practice and attract potential patients seeking aesthetic treatments.

6. What are the regulatory requirements for practising aesthetic medicine in the UK?

Practitioners must comply with regulatory standards set by organisations such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and adhere to legal and ethical guidelines outlined by professional bodies like the General Medical Council (GMC), ensuring compliance with industry regulations and standards. The Health & Care Act 2022 also has significant implications for aesthetic practitioners, setting out new regulations and standards. Hamilton Fraser works closely with the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) and Cosmetic Practice Standards Authority (CPSA), which have a code of practice for practitioners providing cosmetic interventions.

7. How can I maintain a work-life balance while pursuing a career in aesthetics?

Establish boundaries between work and personal life, prioritise self-care, and delegate tasks where possible to maintain a healthy balance between professional and personal commitments, maximising overall well-being and job satisfaction.

If you’re interested in exploring your unique motivations for developing an aesthetic career, we recommend reading our guest blog by psychologist Kimberley Cairns. In ‘Making the transition from the NHS to aesthetic practice’, Kimberley shares tips on what you need to know when considering leaving the NHS for aesthetic practice, focusing on the connection between aesthetic practice and psychology.

Our guide, ‘How to become an aesthetic practitioner’, also provides lots of helpful guidance if you’re just starting out in aesthetics.

Get a quote today!
We’ve made the process easy