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FAQs Cosmetic surgery – Requirement for GP referral for cosmetic surgery patients from 1 July 2023

In the Board’s Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures, from 1 July 2023 all patients seeking cosmetic surgery will require a referral from a GP or other medical specialist. These FAQs provide information in relation to this requirement for referring practitioners and practitioners providing cosmetic surgery.

Similar to any other referral, a referral will provide important medical information to the referred practitioner such as patient history, existing comorbidities, and medications. The GP can assess a patient’s physical and mental health and it is also an opportunity for a patient to discuss their motivation for cosmetic surgery with an independent practitioner. It is expected it will support continuity of care and patient safety. 

A referral from a GP is therefore not a recommendation of a surgery or a cosmetic practitioner.

Only cosmetic surgery requires a GP referral. Examples of cosmetic surgery include breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, surgical face lifts, cosmetic genital surgery, and liposuction and fat transfer. Non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as cosmetic injectables, laser, thread lifts, do not require a referral.

Yes. All patients must have a referral from an Australian registered GP or other non-cosmetic specialist. All requirements in the Guidelines apply to all patients including the requirements for number of consultations and the cooling-off period.

It is preferable that the referral is from the patient’s usual GP as this will ensure the referral includes the patient’s relevant medical history and will assist continuity of care. However, the patient may choose an alternative GP if they wish.

While it is preferred that the referral is from the patient’s usual GP, it can be from another general practitioner or other medical specialist (as long as they don’t provide cosmetic surgery or procedures themselves).

Yes. GP registrars can refer a patient for cosmetic surgery just as they would refer patients to other practitioners (as long as they meet the other requirements – are independent and don’t provide cosmetic surgery or procedures themselves).

Yes. A cosmetic practitioner can ‘on refer’ a patient to another cosmetic practitioner provided the patient had an initial referral from a GP or other non-cosmetic specialist.

The referring GP and the practitioner providing the surgery must not:

  • practise in same clinic location or for same employer/business 
  • have any financial relationship
  • be close relatives
  • have an arrangement where the cosmetic practitioner nominates or directs their patients to a specific GP or business to get a referral for their cosmetic surgery.

A medical practitioner who provides cosmetic surgery and/or non-surgical procedures (whether full-time or part-time) cannot refer a patient for cosmetic surgery.

A general practitioner who provides non-surgical cosmetic procedures part-time/in addition to their usual general practice cannot refer a patient for cosmetic surgery.

The purpose of the referral is to provide information to the practitioner about the patient’s history. A discussion with the patient about their motivation does not require detailed knowledge of specific surgeries. The practitioner performing the surgery is responsible for providing information about the surgery. The Board does not expect GPs to have detailed knowledge of every cosmetic surgery. It is not their role to provide information about the proposed procedure.

The referral should indicate the nature of the patient’s request, but the decision about which surgery is provided (if any) will be made by the patient and the practitioner performing the surgery.

As for any referral, the patient can use their referral to see a practitioner of their choice.

The GP can provide information about the doctor’s registration type (accessed from the Ahpra public register) and can provide advice/information about types of medical practitioners, surgeons and medical qualifications. The referring GP is not responsible if the patient doesn’t like the practitioner they are referred to or has a poor outcome.

The Board doesn’t expect GPs to know all the practitioners who provide cosmetic surgery and which surgeries they provide. Practitioners providing cosmetic surgery must have appropriate training. The public register provides information about practitioners’ registration type (and will include cosmetic surgery endorsement once available).

The referring practitioner must have a real-time consultation with the patient (in person or by video) before a referral is made. In person is preferred.  

A referral that is based on a questionnaire completed by a patient without a real-time consultation is not acceptable.

The Board does not determine how consultations can be billed or if a rebate is payable. Medicare is not payable for cosmetic surgery or procedures. However, Medicare Australia has advised (advice received 14 February 2023), that for a GP consult where the purpose is to assess an individual patient’s physical and mental health, help them make a decision and provide a referral, benefits would most likely be payable, provided the requirements of a relevant item are met.

The same as any other referral – at a minimum, the reason for the referral and relevant patient history.

As per any surgery, the practitioner providing the surgery. The referring GP is not responsible for obtaining informed consent.

The Board’s Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures set out the Board’s expectations of the practitioner providing the surgery to screen patients for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) using a tool. They must document the process and the outcome. 

However, it is expected that the referring GP discusses the requested procedure with the patient and if there are indications of BDD or another similar condition, they would manage the patient as they would any patient who presented with such a condition. 

It is expected that if the GP determines the patient has BDD or any other condition which would make them an unsuitable candidate for cosmetic surgery, the GP should not provide them with a referral for cosmetic surgery. 

The Board considers, as per any surgery, the practitioner providing the surgery is responsible for the surgical care and management of their patient, not the referring GP.

The cosmetic practitioner should decline to proceed with the consultation as this is a requirement of the Board’s Guidelines.

If a patient is attending a consultation for a non-cosmetic matter, and wishes to discuss unrelated cosmetic surgery, they must get a referral for the cosmetic surgery before the practitioner can have a detailed discussion about cosmetic surgery with them.

It is advisable that cosmetic practitioners should inform all patients of the requirement for GP referral specifically for cosmetic surgery when a patient makes an appointment.

Page reviewed 4/07/2023