Having cosmetic surgery without ensuring the surgeon has a valid insurance certificate could make it impossible to sue if things go wrong, leading clinical negligence law firm Thompsons has warned.

The advice comes after Birmingham man Niall Sheehan received £9,700 in compensation for a botched nose operation which has left him with breathing difficulties and in need of further surgery.

The surgeon who carried out the operation, Mr Guilio Gherardini, left the National Centre for Cosmetic Surgery in Birmingham, West Midlands, shortly after the operation on Mr Sheehan and returned to Italy. He refused to respond to correspondence or to provide details of his insurance.

He has since consented to his name being removed from the General Medical Council's register following an investigation relating to his professional performance. There are other complaints and legal cases against Mr Gherardini, which the General Medical Council is aware of.

Action taken against clinic

Unable to obtain a valid copy of Mr Gherardini's insurance policy, and therefore to sue him directly, Thompsons was able to take action against the clinic, alleging that it had failed to carry out appropriate checks on the surgeon.

Kashmir Uppal, Mr Sheehan's solicitor, said: "If there's no insurance then there's little point in suing the surgeon, particularly as in this case, they are no longer in the UK. We were fortunate that we were able to commence action against the private hospital alleging breach of contract on the basis that they had failed to carry out sufficient checks. But that in itself is shocking, that they were allowing this surgeon to practise without being able to show that he was fit to. Fortunately the Centre settled the claim and paid compensation to Mr Sheehan."

Mr Sheehan said: "I was outraged that this doctor was allowed to carry out surgery on me when he wasn't skilled to do so. This sort of thing puts lives at risk. There's been a lot of publicity about rogue doctors carrying out cosmetic surgery on people and I hope that my experience is a lesson to others. I've had months of pain and discomfort, and no amount of compensation will make up for that."