In the past six months, general practitioners and the wider medical community have witnessed a landmark shift in the cosmetic surgery landscape in Australia. With the introduction of significant reforms that came into play on 1 July 2023, the industry has seen a surge in quality standards and a revamped approach to patient care. These changes have touched on everything from practice protocols to advertising norms.

Six Months Later: How Have the Reforms Influenced General Practice?

Regardless of whether you perform cosmetic procedures of not, these changes impact your practice and your patients who are seeking cosmetic surgery. With the mandate of GP referrals before cosmetic surgery, you may have seen an increase in consultations for this purpose. Referrals should ideally come from the patient’s usual GP, who has been able to assess the patient’s mental and physical health as well as their motivation for undergoing the surgery. This practice not only elevates the standard of patient care but ensures an added safeguard for individuals considering these procedures.

Higher Standards and Safer Care: The Core of the Reforms

Circulated by the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the overriding goal is patient safety, edging out commercial interests. The reforms, reflective of recommendations from an independent review and public consultation, have set in motion higher practice standards, especially for procedures that cut beneath the skin, such as breast augmentation and liposuction, as well as non-surgical interventions like injectable treatments.

Advertising Overhaul: A New Ethos for Cosmetic Surgery Ads

As GPs, your interaction with cosmetic surgery may mainly rest in patient referrals, but being aware of the advertising side of things is crucial if you are a doctor who performs cosmetic surgery or procedures. The Medical Board of Australia’s revised advertising guidelines—also applicable from July 2023 demand honesty and clarity. They put an end to promotions that are deceptive, misleading, or that trivialise the risks involved in cosmetic procedures. It is also a requirement that doctors who are performing these procedures outline their qualifications and titles in a way that is not misleading. As professionals entrusted with guiding patients, you need to be well-informed about these advertising standards to help steer your patients clear of misleading information.

Registration Standard for Cosmetic Surgery Endorsement

The introduction of a new registration standard for cosmetic surgery and procedure endorsement helps demystify qualifications and competencies for both practitioners and referring GPs. It gives you the assurance that the doctor has met the required standards and provides a clear indicator to patients seeking these surgeries.

Six Months On: A Critical Review and What’s Ahead

The journey doesn’t end with the implementation of these reforms. Continuous adaptation and vigilance in upholding these standards are integral. AHPRA’s ongoing audits of the advertising of cosmetic procedures or surgery, which started even before the implementation of the new rules, make it clear that compliance is not just a one-time event but an ongoing process.

The Takeaway for GPs

As front liners in patient care, GPs like you are a crucial link in this chain of change. You need not be an expert in cosmetic procedures, but an understanding of the reforms will enable you to provide informed advice and appropriate referrals. It’s more than just implementing new principles; it’s about actively participating in an era where patient welfare takes precedence like never before.

The six-month mark is a significant milestone to review how these reforms have reshaped the cosmetic surgery industry and what further adjustments or improvements may be on the horizon. By staying informed and proactive, you ensure that the services patients receive are not just compliant, but exemplary.

Moving forward, we encourage GPs to continue the dialogue about these regulations with their patients, ensuring they are fully aware of what these changes mean for their health and safety choices.