Regulators have been tasked with helping to protect the public from rogue operators, although details of the proposed reforms are unclear.
Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler has said restrictions on the use of the title “cosmetic surgeon” will be part of reforms agreed by state and territory health ministers.
Announcing a ‘crackdown on ‘cosmetic cowboys”, Minister Butler’s office referred to ‘a litany of ghastly stories’ in the cosmetic surgery industry with permanent damage done to ‘untold numbers’ of Australians.
“The time to act now is to ensure doctors performing cosmetic procedures must be properly qualified and working to the highest health and safety standards expected in Australia,” he said.
According to Minister Butler, state and territory health ministers have pledged to prevent doctors without adequate qualifications from describing themselves as “cosmetic surgeons” – although the timeline is not yet clear.
A Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson said that under the National Health Practitioners Regulation Act, health ministers are responsible for determining who can use the protected title of ‘surgeon’ .
‘This will be based on advice from the Medical Board of Australia and implemented by state and territory laws,’ they said. newsGP.
Work to restrict the title of “cosmetic surgeon” has been under discussion since 2018 and is described as having “strong and broad stakeholder support” in official consultation documents from last year.
The measures being considered by health ministers are either to restrict the title ‘surgeon’ to 10 areas of surgical specialty practice or to restrict the use of the title to specialist practitioners with significant surgical training, which would include dermatologists and specialist general practitioners.
The proposed reform has gained publicity – and urgency – following recent damaging publicity about the cosmetic surgery industry, with Nine Newspapers in particular. a series of exhibitions on shoddy practices and raising serious concerns about patient safety.
Reforms agreed by health ministers will also involve pushing for more appropriate qualifications, a decision to limit surgery to properly accredited facilities, a ban on social media testimonials and measures to better inform patients about the risks of surgery and their rights.
The Minister’s announcement follows the publication last week of a review of the cosmetic surgery sector which was commissioned by AHPRA and the Medical Board of Australia Last year.
Noting that universal minimum standards for cosmetic surgery are “non-existent” in Australia, The review’s lead investigator, former Queensland Health Ombudsman Andrew Brown, included 16 recommendations to help protect the public.
At the heart of these is a proposed new “approval model,” which the report summary says will allow AHPRA and the Medical Council to establish “minimum qualifications” for practitioners to practice plastic surgery.
The review recognizes that currently any physician can perform cosmetic surgery procedures without proper training or supervised experience.
He also noted the issues surrounding the use of the title “cosmetic surgeon,” but made no recommendations, saying it was under consideration by the Ministerial Council and outside the scope of the review.
Cosmetic surgery is not a recognized specialty and the use of the title is not protected by national legislation.
A submission by the RACGP to the examination in the cosmetics industry recommended that the permitted use of the title of surgeon be conditional upon completion of approved training and demonstration of the required skills.
“The protected title of surgeon will help the public better understand the qualifications of a physician,” the college said.
“The RACGP suggests the use of terms such as ‘cosmetician’ and ‘Dr’, and not surgeons as alternatives for providers of cosmetic surgery services. »
The college said excessive credential restriction could “negatively impact” general practitioners such as general surgeons, general obstetricians and general anaesthetists.
Minister Butler also announced on Saturday that the Australian Healthcare Safety and Quality Commission will develop specific safety and quality standards for the practice of cosmetic surgery.
Meanwhile, the Medical Board of Australia has been tasked with overseeing better credentials for cosmetic surgery by adding a practice area to medical records.
He will also be responsible for cracking down on the use of testimonials and social media, as well as strengthening advice to doctors and setting up a cosmetic surgery complaints hotline.
The Medical Board of Australia and the commission are due to report in two months.
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