07 Dec 2022
A public consultation on proposed guidelines that will shape the cosmetic surgery industry’s future has begun in the past month, while the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board of Australia (the MBA) are increasingly able to hold more practitioners to account through hotline tip-offs and an advertising audit.
As recommended by an independent review into regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry, the MBA is consulting on three reforms to make cosmetic surgery safer.
Three draft documents are open for comment: a registration standard to establish an endorsement pathway, stronger guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery, and advertising guidelines for cosmetic surgery.
‘We’re keeping our word and moving quickly to make cosmetic surgery safer. Your feedback will help us set the right foundations for safer cosmetic surgery, so consumers know who to go to and doctors know what is expected,’ MBA Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said.
The consultation closes Sunday 11 December.
The Board will consider the feedback before finalising the registration standard for endorsement and the guidelines in early 2023. It will refer the registration standard to Health Ministers for their approval.
The Australian Medical Council (AMC) is also developing accreditation standards and graduate outcomes to support the endorsement for cosmetic surgery. The AMC will be publicly consulting on these standards and graduate outcomes. The standards will be used to assess programs of study and their providers for accreditation. Once accredited, the Board will decide whether to approve the qualification for endorsement. There are currently no approved qualifications. The AMC have provided an update on their processes for this pathway.
Hotline tip offs
So far 77 calls have been made to the Cosmetic Surgery Hotline (1300 361 041) from the public and practitioners raising concerns about bad practice or poor performance, resulting in 15 notifications to Ahpra and National Boards. A further six matters have been referred to state and territory health complaints entities.
Some notifiers have alleged that practitioners have threatened legal action against them if they make a complaint, potentially raising the prospect of further enforcement action.
‘Threatening legal action to prevent reports of harm is of great concern to Ahpra and the National Boards,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.
‘If patients or practitioners are experiencing or witnessing this intimidation, please report it.’
Anyone, including practitioners, who makes a notification or assists with enquiries in good faith is protected from civil, criminal, or administrative liability under Section 237 of the National Law.
Further information is available on the Ahpra website to assist patients who may have signed a non-disclosure agreement or deed of release.
Ahpra is managing 235 notifications related to cosmetic practice regarding 77 practitioners. Of these, 156 notifications relate to 15 practitioners who are no longer practising or have restrictions in place as an interim measure while an investigation is underway.
A proactive and targeted advertising audit which began in September has already found 18 practitioners whose advertising may have breached Medical Board of Australia rules and guidelines. These practitioners have been asked to address the issues raised and provide a response before the need for any further regulatory action is considered.
It is expected more potential breaches will be identified as the audit continues.