A CHARITY has warned that facial transplants should not be offered without "significant investment" in counselling services for patients and their families.

The boss of Changing Faces, an organisation which supports people with disfigurements, said anyone undergoing the surgery faced major "psychological challenges".

It comes after surgeons in Scotland who are trained to carry out the cutting edge transplants spoke of their frustration after NHS refused to fund the operations.

Dr James Partridge, chief executive of Changing Faces, said: “We always welcome surgical advances, and some of the transplant procedures taking place today are quite incredible.

"But no transplant comes with more psychological challenges than a face transplant, and we continue to urge real caution, and plead for significant investment in psychosocial care for the patient, their family, and the donor’s family before, during and long after the transplant has taken place.”

The world's first partial face transplant was carried out in France in November 2005, with the first ever full face transplant taking place in Spain in 2010.

Surgeons at the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow have spent seven years being trained to carry out face transplants in Scotland but NHS National Services Scotland ruled out funding on the grounds that too few patients would use the service.

David Koppel, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, said the decision was "very disappointing".

He said he knew of a number of patients who could benefit from the procedure and that psychological support was already in place.

He said: "It is all to do with the rehabilitation of patients who are often sitting at home not contributing to society and having a miserable time."

A health board in Scotland has already agreed funding for a patient to travel to France for the operation.

But Mr Koppel said he would "not enter that discussion" because there were too many drawbacks to patients seeking treatment in Paris, including the need to be there within five to six hours of a donor becoming available and the language barrier.