The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (AHPRA) report ‘Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery, released today does not address the extremely concerning issues within the cosmetic procedures sector.

As the regulator responsible for determining who is able to perform surgery in Australia, AHPRA has failed in its duty to appropriately ‘regulate individual medical practitioners, including those who undertake cosmetic surgery’, despite clear and repeated evidence about the significant patient harm resulting from Australian doctors operating as ‘cosmetic surgeons’ with no recognised specialist surgical qualifications.

“AHPRA’s response does not meet community standards or expectations. All Australians rightly expect surgical medical procedures to be performed by appropriately accredited medical professionals with specialist surgical training.

APRHA has only recommended the Cosmetic Guidelines be “strengthened”, and has failed to strongly oppose the use of the term “cosmetic surgery”, which can be profoundly misleading and deeply concerning,” Shadow Minister for Health Anne Ruston said.

“AHPRA’s failure to vehemently oppose the overturning of a ban on social media testimonials is just disgraceful. Countless young women, in particular, have been lured into having cosmetic procedures by false claims made on social media. What is the point of relying on remedies for misleading and deceptive conduct once patients have been harmed and maimed? AHPRA’s response is like being hit with a piece of wet lettuce. It is clear this regulator is simply not up to the job,” Shadow Minister for Communications Sarah Henderson said.

Recent media investigations detail horrific incidents of malpractice which have previously been brought to AHPRA’s attention, with few consequences for misconduct.

The Opposition notes the disappointment from the Australasian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, who have been campaigning to increase standards of cosmetic surgery in Australia, increase transparency in advertising, and ensure that like any other surgery, cosmetic surgery can only be performed by  fully trained surgeons whose training is accredited to the standard of the Australian Medical Council.

AHPRA’s proposal to ‘endorse’ existing cosmetic surgeons, whose training is not to the standard of the AMC, reveals a lack of understanding of what training in surgery entails, what AMC accreditation is, and why a national consistent standard in all surgical training is critical. 

The Opposition is also deeply concerned about proposed amendments to the national health law, currently before the Queensland Parliament, which would lift the prohibition against using testimonials in advertisements about regulated health services.  

“The Albanese Government must intervene to stop the states and territories overturning this ban which would put patients undergoing cosmetic procedures at further serious risk,” Senator Henderson said.

Further to this report, the Opposition also anticipates the findings of the review initiated by former Minister for Health Greg Hunt, along with his state counterparts, to determine the appropriateness of state legislation to prohibit the use of the term ‘surgeon’ in the context of cosmetic procedures.  

Following former Minister Hunt’s leadership on the matter, Minister Butler must continue to raise issues of malpractice with his state counterparts as a matter of urgency to ensure this no longer can occur in Australia.

tags:  news feature