Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Making inroads on cosmetic surgery reform

Making inroads on cosmetic surgery reform

08 Nov 2022

Implementation of all 16 recommendations of the Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery is well underway with progress being reported for the first time on actions being led by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).  

Key points
  • All 16 recommendations from the independent review into cosmetic surgery are being implemented by Ahpra and the Medical Board to better protect the public.
  • Thirteen new investigations have been launched following tip-offs to the Cosmetic Surgery Hotline.
  • A Cosmetic Surgery Hub provides a single-entry point for the public and practitioners for information about cosmetic surgery practice, including the hotline, resources for the public to support safer choices, and resources for practitioners to support safer practice.
  • The MBA has written to Australia’s 133,000 medical practitioners to encourage them to speak up for safety and help break the silence that allows poor practice to go unchecked.
  • ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard has been appointed as Chair of a new Cosmetic Surgery Oversight Group to oversee progress on cosmetic surgery industry reforms.

 

In November 2021, Ahpra and the MBA commissioned the independent review following reports that raised concerns about the alleged conduct of some medical practitioners in the sector. The review’s final report was published in September 2022 and Ahpra and the MBA accepted the 16 recommendations in full. 

Key actions underway

Speaking up for safety

Calls to a new Ahpra Cosmetic Surgery Hotline have already resulted in the launch of thirteen new investigations over allegations of unsafe or inappropriate practice. 

The Cosmetic Surgery Hotline has received 60 calls since it opened on 5 September, Ahpra is on average launching a new investigation each week based on these tip-offs.

This new service makes it easier and safer for cosmetic surgery patients, or their family and friends, to report concerns. The launch of the hotline has been supported by an online campaign to encourage patients to report bad outcomes to ‘help make cosmetic surgery safer for everyone.’ 

Allegations reported to the hotline which are now being investigated include: 

  • continuing to advertise services and allegedly taking appointments while holding non-practising registration
  • intimidation of patients
  •  inappropriate claims about expertise and unrealistic expectations in advertising
  • disrespectful communications during consultation, and
  •  poor post-operative care and infection control.

‘We thank everyone who has contacted the Hotline as it means we can immediately investigate and act on safety issues that may otherwise have gone undetected and led to further patient harm,’ Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said.

‘Crucially, the allegations relate to practitioners and matters which had never previously been reported to Ahpra.’

‘I urge anyone who has had a bad cosmetic surgery experience to report it on 1300 361 041 so it can be investigated.’

Practitioners can also use the hotline to report concerns, which can be made confidentially. To reinforce vigilance within the industry, the MBA has written to Australia’s 133,000 medical practitioners reminding them of their obligations to report unsafe practice. 

‘I am grateful to the practitioners who are providing patients with much needed follow up care when cosmetic surgery goes wrong. But we also need it reported to us,’ MBA Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin said.

‘Speaking up for safety helps break the silence that allows poor practice to go unchecked.'

You can read more about the hotline on our newly created Cosmetic Surgery Hub.

Crackdown on advertising

The first stage of a crackdown on cosmetic surgery advertising began in early September targeting cosmetic surgery advertising undertaken by practitioners with large online and social media profiles.

Common issues identified include:

  • use of testimonials some of which link to patient social media accounts
  • unreasonable expectations of outcomes
  • after images with no before images for comparison
  • outcomes that are not supported by evidence such as claims that are not supported by evidence such as increased self-esteem
  • social media posts that minimise complexity, risk, and recovery time, and
  • specialist claims by practitioners who do not hold specialist registration.

Consumers and practitioners can notify us about advertising breaches via the Hotline 1300 361 041. Examples of what constitutes a breach can be found on our  Cosmetic Surgery Hub.

Strengthened oversight

Australian Consumer and Competition Commission Deputy Chair, Ms Delia Rickard has agreed to chair a new Cosmetic Surgery Oversight Group which will provide oversight of the wide-ranging cosmetic surgery reforms being undertaken by the MBA and Ahpra.  

Having championed consumer protection for a decade at the ACCC, Ms Delia Rickard will bring a strong voice to help ensure that everyone who chooses cosmetic surgery has the information they need to make safer choices.  

Ms Rickard will take up this chairing role when she completes her term as Deputy Chair of the ACCC in late January 2023. 

The Cosmetic Surgery Oversight Group has been established by the Ahpra Board and will commence in February 2023. It will 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.

Consultation on a new standard and new and revised guidelines to kick off in November

In November, the MBA will start publicly consulting on new and strengthened regulatory requirements for medical practitioners who provide cosmetic surgery across Australia. 

These are: 

  1. Draft Registration standard: Endorsement of registration for cosmetic surgery for registered medical practitioners 
    1. endorsement will be visible on the public register and make it clear if a doctor has met cosmetic surgery standards set by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and the MBA. The AMC will develop and consult on accreditation standards and graduate outcomes required to gain endorsement.
  2. Draft revised and strengthened Guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures 
    1. updating the MBA’s 2016 guidelines currently in place
  3. New draft Guidelines for medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgery
    1. expanding existing guidance on advertising in the MBA’s 2016 Cosmetic Guidelines.

Background

Contact us

  • Media enquiries 03 8708 9200
  • Cosmetic surgery complaints – call the Hotline 1300 361 041

 

 
 
Page reviewed 8/11/2022