August 2022 will mark two years since Mr Taimur Shoaib opened his new state-of-the-art clinic in Glasgow. Having first opened the doors to the award-winning La Belle Forme back in 2009, Mr Shoaib made the decision to expand the business with new purpose-built hospital premises – The Glasgow Day Surgery Centre. His ambitions were big, but with a successful career as one of the UK’s most respected plastic surgeons and aesthetic practitioners and speakers, and with a loyal patient base, he was confident that this was the next right move. He could not have foreseen what came next.
In March 2020, just one week away from completion, building work on the expansive project was halted, putting a huge spanner in the extremely expensive works. It was a challenging time with robust restrictions in Scotland throughout the pandemic. But, 24 months on, and business is thriving for the surgeon who has a reflective and positive attitude to the challenges his business and the wider industry have faced during the pandemic.
“We’ve survived two financial crashes, two recessions, Brexit, a pandemic and two lockdowns. It really was a battle to survive, and I think it was survival of the fittest because we’ve had so many hurdles in our journey, the final one being building a hospital in the middle of a pandemic.”
Here he shares his story with us.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
With nearly two decades in the industry, Mr Shoaib’s interest has always been in plastic surgery. “I recently caught up with one of my lab partners from medical school on Facebook, and she said, ‘Oh, you are a plastic surgeon, you always wanted to be one’. I had forgotten about that, as it was back in the late 80s, but she reminded me that I wanted to be a plastic surgeon for that length of time,” Mr Shoaib says.
Having qualified from the University of Glasgow in 1992 after training in general surgery, he then obtained the FRCS fellowship qualification in surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
“When I was doing my final surgery attachment, the consultant who was in charge of looking after us asked us, ‘Is there any branch of surgery that you guys haven’t seen that you would like to see?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’d like to see some plastic surgery.’ They sent us to the Canniesburn Plastic Surgery Unit, a worldfamous unit with a history of innovation. They presented a case ofa man who had cancer of the tongue and, in order to remove the cancer, they had to split his jaw open. The cancer had spread to the neck, so at the same time, they did a neck dissection and a reconstruction.”
This experience inspired the young junior doctor, and he took a post in the Canniesburn unit alongside hand surgeon. While here, he started researching head and neck cancers, and this led him to achieve his higher doctorate in Head and Neck Cancer Plastic Surgery at Canniesburn hospital after he discovered a way of identifying early cancer spread in mouth cancers.
“I was lucky enough to speak about that throughout the world because it was innovative research,” he says. “That allowed me to start my higher surgical training.”
Following this, Mr Shoaib enjoyed a consultant’s post in Glasgow within the NHS in 2006, but soon started undertaking private work to cover the training costs. With a diploma in medical informatics from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Mr Shoaib was more than computer literate enough to create his own website at a time when social media didn’t exist, and very few clinics were promoting themselves digitally.
It was here he started seeing the demand for non-surgical treatments such as dermal fillers and botulinum toxin from his surgical patients, and so La Belle Forme was born.
THE NEXT STAGE
Mr Shoaib founded his private cosmetic surgery and aesthetics clinic, La Belle Forme, in 2009 with a 10-year lease. At the end of 2019, the lease was up, and work was underway to transform a new 8,000-square-foot former gym building into a brand new facility.
“By this stage, I had performed around 400 successful operations as day cases in London, so I decided to do the same in Glasgow, opting to only undertake operations that took less than three hours, where the estimated blood loss is less than 500mls and where patients were medically well. In other words, their American Society of Anaesthesiology grade is only ASA I or ASA II.”
“I instructed an accountant, an architect, builders and structural engineers to create a big air handling unit to draw in airfrom the outside, filter it, condition it and then distribute it to the operating theatre to facilitate 27 air changes per hour (the minimum standard is 25).”
The clinic was originally set to have all building works completed in March 2020, however, despite efforts from Mr Shoaib to keep building on track, work was halted a week before due to the pandemic.
“I tried to use my powers of persuasion with the builders, as, from my point of view healthcare was exempt and this was a healthcare facility. But they told me they had another project at an NHS hospital and had also been told to stop working there, so I couldn’t use my powers of influence beyond that.”
With debts into seven figures for the build hanging over him and no way to practice, Mr Shoaib was not one to bury his head in the sand. In fact, the proactive surgeon was part of a group of like-minded plastic surgeons who came together to form CAPSCO (the consortium of aesthetic plastic surgeon clinic owners), an organisation created to support each other from a business perspective.
“Shailesh Vadodaria, Shanks Shankar, James McDiarmid and Muhammad Riaz and myself set up CAPSCO to try and and cope with lockdown.
“We were a group of surgeons who owned our own practices but were told we couldn’t work in them. We didn’t know how we were going to survive, so we set this up as a survival solution, creating protocols, policies, and documents that allowed us to take a consensus view on what we should do if we found ourselves in this position again.”
In July 2020, after months on hold, building on the clinic was allowed to restart, and the new, purpose-built facility finally opened its doors in August 2020, before the second lockdown was imposed.
With an open-plan reception area, the building features a clinic corridor on the left-hand side where pre-op and post-op clinic consultations carried out by a range of surgeons, nurses and therapists take place.
Certain treatments, like Botox, fillers and lasers are also carried out in these rooms, too.
To the right-hand side of the clinic is the operating suite, with a three-bed ward, changing rooms and a clean prep room.
“We have a large operating theatre, which is 450 sq ft. When the cardiac anaesthesiologist that I used to work with came in he said the space was big enough enough to perform cardiac surgery.”
The state-of-the-art clinic also boasts second-stage recovery, facilities for staff, clean and dirty areas, storage facilities and a coffee room area for relaxation.
The clinic applied for and was granted hospital status in April 2021, just before Scotland went into another lockdown.
“We applied for registration to be a general anaesthetic facility, in other words, a hospital. With HIS (Healthcare Improvement Scotland), if you are going to do a general anaesthetic procedure, you’ve got to be classed as a hospital.”
THE PATIENT JOURNEY
Having won numerous accolades, Mr Shoaib believes La Belle Forme is so successful due to the fact that the patient experience is at the heart of the practice, and this was one of the main priorities for the new clinic too.
““The facility won the Best Cosmetic Surgical Provider at the Safety in Beauty Awards, which made me very happy. The facility is hugely patient-centred and everything is done with the patient journey in mind, which I like to think helped us secure this win.
“We thought about the patient experience throughout the build. That they’ll come into the reception area, they’ll have a seat, and someone will pick them up and take them into their ward area, they’ll then go into the operating theatre, into recovery, or maybe back to their room, and they’ll be discharged.
“All of the processes and the policies that we have are centred around the patients as well. Everything is patientcentred because we had an open book. We had a clean sheet from which to create all our journeys and pathways.”
To find out more about the clinic, visit labelleforme.co.uk