Surgeon title now protected by legislation

3 minute read

Only qualified doctors with ‘significant’ surgical training can now use the title, or risk three years’ prison and a $60k fine.

An amendment to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 to restrict the use of the title of “surgeon” passed through the Queensland Parliament yesterday.

The change to the National Law — which is hosted by Queensland — is aimed at safeguarding Australians against “cosmetic cowboys”. 

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. 

Dr Nicola Dean, president of the ASPS, said she welcomed the passage of the amendment.

“We are 100% supportive of the new ruling,” she said.

“Restricting the use of the title ‘surgeon’ is vital for patient safety, so that there is transparency regarding the actual training and qualifications of practitioners.

“To be able to call yourself a ‘surgeon’ is to hold a position of privilege and trust. In the past, there have been too many practitioners in the cosmetic surgery space who have abused that trust and compromised patient safety with appalling consequences.

“This new ruling will go a long way to help the public understand who is safe to perform surgery.”

In Australia, the only AMC-accredited training for cosmetic surgery is conducted under the umbrella of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and is one of the components of the Plastic and Reconstructive Training SET (Surgical and Education Training) program delivered by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“Specialist plastic surgeons have 12 years of training and specific training in cosmetic surgery, but all those doctors who have a FRACS after their names are trained to high standards through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons,” said Dr Dean.

“Recently we have been asking patients to ‘look for the FRACS title’ but now, thanks to this amendment passing, it will be even easier for the public to know who is safe. 

“By working together, the Federal Health Minster, The Hon Mark Butler MP and all the Health Ministers of Australia have demonstrated they are taking the health of women and men undergoing cosmetic surgery seriously and have delivered this great result for patient safety.”

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. 

The Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency is also moving to introduce stronger laws around advertising and the use of online influencers and brand ambassadors to promote cosmetic procedures. 

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. 

“The passage of this bill is incredibly important,” said Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman.  

“It will help protect Queenslanders, and all Australians, 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. 

“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. 

“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.” 

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