Australian Cosmetic Surgery Reforms 2023

Australian Cosmetic Surgery Reforms 2023

Learn about the changes coming to the plastic surgery industry as of July 1st 2023
Last updated on
February 4, 2024

GP Referrals, Improved Facility Standards, Advertising Changes & more

The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have issued new guidelines for doctors who perform cosmetic surgery, effective from 1st July 2023. 

These guidelines have been established as part of a cosmetic surgery reform package that aims to raise standards, impose stricter advertising rules, and introduce a new endorsement on registration. The changes were informed by an independent review and a public consultation conducted in December 2022.

What do these Cosmetic Surgery Reforms mean for me as a Patient?

As a patient, these changes will have several significant implications:

GP Referrals

With the requirement of GP referrals for all cosmetic surgeries, you will have a chance to discuss your motivation for undergoing the procedure with your GP, who has a thorough understanding of your medical history. Adding an extra layer of safety.

Improved Facility Standards

The new standards will ensure that cosmetic surgery is conducted in premises accredited by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC). This means better infrastructure and, potentially, better care for patients.

Advertising and Informed Decisions

New advertising rules will prevent false, misleading, or deceptive advertising and require medical practitioners to provide clear information about their registration type, number, and about the risks and recovery related to the procedure. This can help you make better-informed decisions about whether to proceed with a surgery and with which doctor.

Medical Specialty Identification (Coming Soon)

With the new endorsement on registration on the way, you will be able to clearly identify which doctors are specifically trained and qualified to perform cosmetic surgeries safely.

Mental Health Consideration

There will be increased scrutiny for signs of body dysmorphic disorder before surgery, ensuring that emotional and mental health is taken into consideration by surgeons.

Remember, while these changes will enhance safety and transparency, it is still important for you as a patient to conduct thorough research and engage in comprehensive discussions with your healthcare providers before making decisions about plastic surgery.

What these Cosmetic Surgery Reforms Mean for Doctors

As a registered medical practitioner, these changes will have many implications:

Patient Consent and Rights

Every patient needs to have a comprehensive understanding of their procedure before giving consent. This includes procedural steps, possible risks, costs, and alternatives. Separate consent is required for the use of patient images for advertising purposes, which can be withdrawn at any time.

Responsibility for Patient Management

As the medical practitioner performing the cosmetic procedure or prescribing the cosmetic injectable, you bear responsibility for the patient’s care, including post-procedure care. If another practitioner administers the prescription, you still remain responsible for the patient's management. Alternative arrangements should be in place if you're unavailable post-procedure.

Involving Other Health Practitioners

When working with other health practitioners during a procedure, your responsibility for the patient remains. Ensure all involved parties are adequately trained, experienced, and supervised as required.

Handling Complaints

Patients have the right to complain if dissatisfied. Provide information about the various complaint mechanisms, ranging from direct resolution to reporting to the state’s health complaints entity.

Ensuring Adequate Training and Qualifications

Practitioners providing cosmetic procedures must have relevant training and experience. Changing your scope of practice to include new procedures requires appropriate training first. Misrepresentation of qualifications and experience is a breach of the National Law.

Adherence to Advertising and Marketing Rules

Australian health service advertising has specific guidelines. Advertising can't glamorize procedures, overstate potential results, or downplay the complexity of a procedure.

Performing Procedures in Approved Facilities

Ensure that all procedures take place in a facility compliant with relevant legislation, regulations, and standards. Facilities must be staffed and equipped to manage potential complications and emergencies.

Understanding and Maintaining Ethical Financial Arrangements

Avoid offering financial incentives for patient recruitment or procedure promotion. Directly or indirectly offering financing schemes as part of a procedure is also prohibited. Ensure your financial interests don't influence your advice to patients.

By understanding these key points and implementing them, doctors can ensure that they're providing cosmetic procedures within the parameters of the new Australian guidelines, promoting trust and transparency with their patients.

Changes to Cosmetic Surgery Advertising in 2023

Here are the changes to how doctors can advertise cosmetic surgery:

Patient and consumer welfare

  • Advertising must not downplay the risks and complications of cosmetic surgery.
  • Advertising should provide clear, factual, and relevant information for decision-making.
  • Advertisements must not pressure patients to make quick decisions about cosmetic surgery.

Patient and consumer education

  • Advertisements should not exploit individuals who are at risk, such as those with unrealistic body image perceptions or body dysmorphia.
  • Cosmetic surgery should not be portrayed as the only solution for appearance-related concerns.
  • Automated tools predicting post-surgery appearance should not be used in advertising.

Responsible advertising

  • Advertisements should not encourage patients to undergo multiple surgeries at once.
  • Language in advertisements should not exploit, disapprove, or imply that normal body changes or features are abnormal or undesirable.
  • Cosmetic surgery should not be presented as a method to achieve an 'ideal' body type.
  • Advertisements should not create unrealistic expectations of outcomes.

Realistic expectations of outcomes

  • Claims in advertisements must be objective, demonstrable, and provable.
  • Advertising should not create unrealistic expectations of results and should not make unsupported claims about psychological or social benefits.
  • It must be stated that results will vary among individuals due to various factors like genetics, diet, and exercise.

Targeting people potentially at risk

  • Advertisements should not target people under the age of 18 or other at-risk groups.
  • Excessive advertising may contribute to body image dissatisfaction.
  • These guidelines also extend to the advertising of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, emphasizing that such advertisements should not glamorize procedures or overstate results.

These new guidelines are in place to promote responsible advertising, ensuring the well-being of the patient and creating realistic expectations for the outcomes of cosmetic surgeries. It also aims to protect vulnerable and at-risk groups from exploitative practices.

Studies & Sources

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency 2023a, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Patients better protected under new cosmetic surgery reforms, Ahpra.gov.au, viewed 5 July 2023, <https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/2023-04-03-cos-surgery-update.aspx>.

― 2023b, Medical Board of Australia - Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgery, www.medicalboard.gov.au, viewed 5 July 2023, <https://www.medicalboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Policies/Guidelines-for-registered-medical-practitioners-who-advertise-cosmetic-surgery.aspx>.

― 2023c, Medical Board of Australia - Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures, Medicalboard.gov.au, viewed 5 July 2023, <https://www.medicalboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Policies/Cosmetic-medical-and-surgical-procedures-guidelines.aspx>.

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