Medical Board of Australia - Cosmetic surgery oversight group kicks off as MBA progresses reforms
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Cosmetic surgery oversight group kicks off as MBA progresses reforms

15 Feb 2023

The Cosmetic Surgery Oversight Group has begun its work overseeing measures to improve safety in the sector as a host of wider reforms continue.

Key points
  • The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) completes consultation on three reforms to support safe practice in cosmetic surgery.
  • New Oversight Group gets underway to ensure reforms are delivered.
  • 254 cosmetic related notifications being investigated; 45 practitioners advertising audited; 111 calls to Cosmetic Surgery Hotline. 

The Group is being led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair Delia Rickard, who has set out her vision for reform.

‘The safety of patients comes first. There is clearly a big safety issue in this area and it needs cleaning up. Regulators have an important role to play here and the role of the Oversight Group is to hold Ahpra accountable for fearlessly implementing all the recommendations of the independent review.

‘We are happy to see the progress being made and we will continue to ensure the recommendations from the recent independent review are delivered.

‘We encourage any cosmetic surgery patients who have had a bad experience, or any concerned practitioners who want to report unsafe practices, to call the Cosmetic surgery hotline on 1300 361 041,’ Ms Rickard said.

The independently chaired Group was established by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) Board to provide assurance to the community, governments, and industry stakeholders that Ahpra and the MBA are implementing the recommendations of the independent review to achieve required outcomes, and includes:

  • Professor Euan Wallace AM, Secretary, Department of Health, Victoria
  • Ms Elizabeth Koff AM, Managing Director, Telstra Health
  • Professor Anne Duggan, Chief Medical Officer, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
  • Dr Paul Harrison, Unit Chair and Senior Lecturer, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Deakin University
  • Ms Gill Callister PSM, Chair, Ahpra Board
  • Dr Anne Tonkin AO, Chair, Medical Board of Australia
  • Adjunct Professor Veronica Casey AM, Chair, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia
  • Adjunct Associate Professor Sophie Scott, Health journalist

MBA standards and practice guidelines reforms  

The MBA has now finished consulting on three key reforms to support safe practice in cosmetic surgery that were recommended by the independent review.

The consultation saw three draft documents open for comment in November. The MBA proposed a registration standard to establish an endorsement pathway that will set expectations about minimum qualifications for medical practitioners wishing to perform cosmetic surgery, stronger guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery, and advertising guidelines for cosmetic surgery.

The endorsement will also make it clear on the public register if a doctor has met cosmetic surgery standards set by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and the MBA.

There is a robust process being led now by the AMC, deciding on standards of training required for an endorsement.

‘An endorsement is one part of a package of reforms coming to the cosmetic surgery sector that includes higher professional standards, tougher advertising requirements and a new registration standard which will set minimum training requirements for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery,’ MBA Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin AO, said.

‘The endorsement is designed to help patients know who is trained and qualified to perform cosmetic surgery safely. It is the strongest measure available to us under the National Law. 

‘Health ministers have also committed to protect the title ‘surgeon’, so no one will be able to call themselves a surgeon unless they have a recognised specialist qualification. This is important and will support patients to make informed decisions,’ Dr Tonkin said.

The Board will soon be delivering its proposed reforms from the consultation to Health Ministers.   Updated advertising and practice guidelines for those performing cosmetic surgery are expected to be implemented in the middle of 2023.  

Examples of unsafe practice we are hearing about

From 5 September 2022 to 12 February 2023 the cosmetic hotline received 111 calls. Over the same period, Ahpra received a total of 72 notifications related to cosmetic surgery via all sources.

In total, Ahpra is currently managing 254 notifications related to cosmetic practice regarding 86 practitioners. The majority of these notifications relate to cosmetic surgery, however some concerns have also been raised about cosmetic procedures. The allegations are being examined by:

  • Medical Board of Australia – 216 notifications (51 practitioners)
  • Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia – 33 notifications (31 practitioners)
  • Dental Board of Australia – 3 notifications (2 practitioners)
  • Psychology Board of Australia – 2 notifications (1 practitioner)

Of these, 14 practitioners are no longer practising or have restrictions in place as an interim measure.


Our advertising blitz continues. We have completed audits for 45 doctors and four businesses. In most cases the doctors and businesses have addressed the concerns we have raised resulting in more appropriate advertising. 

Once we have a doctor’s response the MBA considers the need for regulatory action such as imposing a formal caution; imposing conditions requiring further education on the advertising rules; or imposing conditions restricting advertising content. 

The most common breaches we have identified are:

  • the use of photos that represent treatment outcomes without corresponding before photos for comparison
  • reposting patients’ social media posts in breach of the ban on testimonials
  • using terms that imply specialist registration by doctors who don’t hold specialist registration
  • downplaying the risks and recovery period associated with surgery
  • claiming treatment outcomes that are not supported by evidence.

‘There is more to do to keep the public safe and we’ll be delivering much of that this year. We acknowledge the courage of the patients and practitioners who have contacted us about their concerns. The upcoming changes to guidelines, the steps towards endorsement together with the decision of Health Ministers to protect the title ‘surgeon’ in our National Law will also be significant in keeping patients safe,’ Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said. 

Further information

Contact us

  • Media enquiries (03) 8708 9200.
  • Cosmetic surgery complaints: Cosmetic Surgery Hotline 1300 361 041.
Page reviewed 15/02/2023