The Queensland Government has passed an amendment to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 aimed at safeguarding Australians against “cosmetic cowboys”.
One year on from an independent cosmetic surgery review conducted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), new advertising rules for doctors are now in place and further reforms will focus on the non-surgical cosmetic industry with new guidelines for all health practitioners who perform these procedures.
Changes to the national law, which is hosted by Queensland, will protect the title of ‘surgeon’ within the medical profession.
These changes mean only qualified doctors with significant surgical training can use the title ‘surgeon’ when promoting and conducting their services.
Doctors who use the title without having completed the appropriate accredited surgical training will face up to three years in prison and a $60,000 fine.
With almost a third of Australian adults considering undergoing cosmetic surgery in the next decade, these “cosmetic cowboys” could pose a risk to a significant portion of the population.
Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said the passage of this bill is extremely important in protecting Queenslanders from potentially unsafe cosmetic surgery.
“This amendment was made in response to patient concerns over the lack of regulation and oversight in the cosmetic surgery industry,” she said.
“Now that this Bill has passed, it means that medical practitioners are only be able to use the title ‘surgeon’ if they possess the advanced surgical training and qualifications most people would reasonably expect.
Over $1 billion is spent on cosmetic surgery every year in Australia, making it more popular per capita than in the United States, according to the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery and Medicine.
A further $1 billion is spent on non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as anti-wrinkle injections, fillers, fat dissolving injections, and thread lifts.
Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said the aim is to ensure the public knows what safe practice looks like.
Other measures being taken to better regulate the cosmetic surgery industry include new licensing standards for private facilities and establishing a credentialing system to endorse qualified providers.
“Prior to this amendment, any medical practitioner was able to promote themselves as a cosmetic or aesthetic surgeon, regardless of their qualifications and level of training,” Minister Fentiman said.
Among the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures in Australia are rhinoplasty (nose surgery), breast augmentation, and facelifts.
Almost half of Australians who consider cosmetic surgery would do so to feel better about their looks, a symptom of the pressure and desire to control looks and image in the age of social media and influencing.
With support from all state and territory Health Ministers, the Bill was introduced to Queensland Parliament in April 2023, before being referred to Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee for consideration.