GPs now part of AHPRA’s cosmetic reform posse

3 minute read

Patients will soon need a GP referral for cosmetic surgery. Will it protect vulnerable patients or add one more formality to an overburdened system?

From July, patients wanting to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons will have to stop by their trusty GP, first for a referral, and maybe a second or third time to discuss their motivations for wanting surgery. 

It’s one element in a broad suite of reforms introduced by AHPRA in response to media reports about loose regulations in the cosmetic surgery industry and so-called “cosmetic cowboy” doctors. 

The referral requirement will only apply to patients wanting cosmetic surgeries – invasive procedures like breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and liposuction – rather than non-surgical cosmetic procedures like botox injections, dermal fillers and fat freezing.  

To be clear, the Medical Board does not require or even expect GPs to have a detailed knowledge of cosmetic procedures, nor does it expect GPs to be seeking patient consent for a procedure they are not personally performing.  

“This new measure adds a layer of protection for patients, who will in future be able to discuss their motivation for cosmetic surgery with their GP, who has the best knowledge of their medical history and can share this with the doctor being referred to,” the Medical Board said.  

The provider who does the actual surgery or non-surgical cosmetic procedure will continue to be required to discuss and assess the patient’s reason for requesting the surgery. 

This will include an assessment of whether the patient has a condition like body dysmorphic disorder.  

If screening indicates that the patient potentially has a significant underlying psychological issue like body dysmorphia, the existing requirement for the cosmetic doctor to refer the patient back to their GP or a mental health professional for proper assessment before moving forward will still apply.  

Besides referrals, other recently-announced updates include stronger guidance for doctors who perform cosmetic surgery and stricter advertising rules.  

The health ministers have also approved a new registration standard for cosmetic surgery, which will allow doctors who have done an Australian Medical Council-approved cosmetic surgery qualification to show an “endorsement” on their registration.  

“The Board can’t limit surgery to surgeons – that’s not how the law works,” the Medical Board said. 

Medical Board chair Dr Anne Tonkin said that creating an endorsement is the “strongest regulatory tool” in the regulator’s kit. 

Exactly what training will be required to get a cosmetic surgery endorsement added to a provider’s registration is expected to be announced shortly.  

Once the cosmetic surgery accreditation standards are published, the different colleges and training organisations can apply for accreditation of their own program. 

If it passes, graduates of that course will be eligible for endorsement.  

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