Threats for reporting unsafe cosmetic surgery

Threats for reporting unsafe cosmetic surgery

Recent consultation with both the public and practitioners about the safety of cosmetic surgery has revealed that some were threatened with legal action if they made a complaint.

The consultation on proposed guidelines that will shape the industry’s future featured hotline tip-offs and an advertising audit. This enabled The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board of Australia (the MBA) to hold more practitioners to account.

“Threatening legal action to prevent reports of harm is of great concern to Ahpra and the national boards,” Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said. Further enforcement action could be taken.

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.

The Cosmetic Surgery Hotline received 77 calls 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.

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.

As recommended by an independent review into regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry, the MBA consulted on three reforms to make cosmetic surgery safer.

Three draft documents were 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,” MBA Chair Dr Anne Tonkin said. The feedback will help set the foundations for safer cosmetic surgery, so consumers know who to go to and doctors know what is expected.

A proactive and targeted advertising audit that began in September has already found 18 practitioners whose advertising may have breached MBA 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.

Following consideration, the board will refer the registration standard to health ministers for their approval, with the standard for endorsement and guidelines expected to be released in early 2023.

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 has provided an update on its processes for this pathway.

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