The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency have introduced new practice guidelines as part of a reform package directed toward doctors who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures.
The reforms include higher standards, tougher advertising requirements, and a new endorsement on registration, all of which aim to prioritise patient safety and minimise exploitation and harm in the cosmetic surgery sector.
Effective from 1 July 2023, the key changes in the reform package include:
- Patients must obtain a referral from their general practitioner (GP) before seeking cosmetic surgery. This adds a layer of protection, as GPs have a better understanding of patients’ medical histories and motivations for surgery.
- Cosmetic surgery premises must be accredited against the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care standards, ensuring higher standards for facilities.
- Improved patient assessment by practitioners, including increased scrutiny for signs of body dysmorphic disorder, to ensure better pre-surgery evaluations. Of note, a patient seeking cosmetic surgery must have a least 2 pre-operative consultations and must not be requested to sign consent forms at the first consultation.
- New advertising guidelines with a strong focus on online and social media advertising, in addition to existing codes of conduct and advertising guidelines. The new guidelines provide that advertising must not:
- be false, misleading, or deceptive;
- offer discounts without terms and conditions;
- use testimonials;
- create unreasonable expectations of beneficial treatment; or
- encourage indiscriminate use.
- Practitioners must also give clear information about their registration type and registration number, provide easily accessible information about risks and recovery, and responsibly use videos and images without sexualisation, gratuitous nudity, or negative body language. Finally, cosmetic surgery advertising must also be identified as adult content.
Practitioners have a three-month period to familiarise themselves with these changes and adjust their advertising accordingly.
In addition to the reforms, health ministers have approved new registration standards for cosmetic surgery endorsement. This will help patients identify doctors who meet the cosmetic surgery standards set by the Australian Medical Council and the MBA. This endorsement, along with protecting the title ‘surgeon’ for only those with specialist registration in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, or ophthalmology, will assist patients in understanding who is qualified to perform cosmetic surgery safely.
The cosmetic surgery accreditation standards are expected to be published soon, determining which qualifications will be recognised for endorsement. Cosmetic surgery training providers will then apply for accreditation of their training programs, and if their programs meet the standards, their graduates will be eligible for endorsement.
These guidelines have been developed pursuant to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law). Section 41 of the National Law provides that an approved registration standard, code, or guideline approved by the MBA is admissible as evidence of inappropriate professional conduct in disciplinary proceedings against registered practitioners.
Failures to meet these guidelines may have serious consequences for medical practitioners in the cosmetic medical and surgical procedures industry and it is important that they familiarise themselves with the new Guidelines prior to their implementation on 1 July 2023.
To read the Guidelines in full, click here.
If you seek any further advice regarding these new practice guidelines for cosmetic surgery, please contact Gemma McGrath or Enore Panetta for assistance.