New cosmetic accreditation standards to tighten up industry

Cosmetic surgery

New cosmetic surgery accreditation standards have been released as part of a package of reforms designed to clean up the cosmetic surgery industry, raise standards and better protect patients.

Health professionals practising cosmetic surgery will need to meet tougher regulations from 1 July 2023. New accreditation standards have come into effect from 19 April.

New guidelines released by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) have put stronger regulations on health professionals practising cosmetic surgery.

The accreditation standards are part of a suite of measures designed to make cosmetic surgery safer for consumers. This includes tougher rules for advertising, stronger guidance for doctors who perform cosmetic surgery, new safety measures including referral by a GP, and accreditation of facilities.

The new accreditation standards have been set by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and approved by the Medical Board. It includes new minimum standards for the education, training and qualification of Australian medical practitioners seeking to practise as cosmetic surgeons, and will require them to provide evidence of their qualifications to the MBA in order to be approved.

The Board set up the endorsement on the recommendation of the cosmetic surgery review. The review involved a six-month examination of the regulation of the sector and made 16 recommendations to improve patient safety.

It is underpinned by a new registration standard, signed off by Health Ministers. In the biggest crackdown on the $1.4 billion cosmetic surgery industry, Health Minister Mark Butler and his state counterparts agreed late last year to reforms focusing on who can use the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’, limiting surgery to accredited facilities and introducing new safety standards.

Creating an endorsement is the strongest regulatory tool in the Board’s kit. An endorsement will make it clear on the public register if a doctor has met high standards – either as a surgeon with specialist registration, through an endorsement for cosmetic surgery, or both.

“An endorsement provides a safe alternative for patients who will continue to seek procedures by doctors who are not surgeons. It creates a standard where now there is none,” MBA Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said.

Dr Tonkin said while patients can still choose a surgeon for cosmetic procedures, an endorsement will provide important information for those who don’t.

“An endorsement will tell patients who is trained and qualified, as does the title surgeon,” Dr Tonkin said.

Up until now there has been no approved qualification for cosmetic surgery. Before these changes, essentially any medical practitioner could perform invasive cosmetic procedures without having the necessary skills and experience.

“A lot of people don’t know to look into the qualifications of the professional they’re seeing,” said AMC community member Jordan van Rosmalen.

“They just take for granted that because you’re in a medical environment and the person has ‘Doctor’ in front of their name, they must be qualified. Now there is a process for this which says this is the standard required, and that this person has completed a program that meets those standards.”

An endorsement is one feature in a larger package of reforms that includes tough new cosmetic industry advertising standards and higher professional standards for cosmetic surgery.

Cosmetic surgery training providers can now seek AMC accreditation for their cosmetic surgery training programs. More details is on the AMC website.

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