Cosmetic dermatology

Could dermatologists be caught up in cosmetic crackdown?

The Federal Government is yet to say whether it will include dermatologists in its plans to ban doctors without surgical qualifications from calling themselves ‘surgeons’ under a sweeping crackdown on the cosmetic sector.

It comes as doctor groups demand details from the government following a string of announcements by Minister for Health Mark Butler last week promising a clampdown on “cosmetic cowboys” risking patient safety.

He said health ministers had agreed to implement reforms including:

  • Regulations “preventing medical practitioners who are not qualified describing themselves as cosmetic surgeons”
  • Limiting surgery to properly accredited facilities with minimum hygiene and safety standards
  • Banning doctors using patient testimonials for cosmetic surgery including on social media
  • An information campaign for patients on the risks of cosmetic surgery and their rights

“Australians deserve to have confidence in the safety and quality of the cosmetic surgery industry and these changes will provide that,” Mr Butler said on Saturday.

“These cosmetic cowboys have been riding unchecked for years, and the previous government simply didn’t act to clean up an industry that has come to resemble the Wild West.”

In addition, the Medical Board of Australia said it would accept all 16 recommendations of an independent review into the sector, including clarifying the credentials of cosmetic surgery providers by adding an “area of practice” to medical registrations.

A dedicated cosmetic surgery investigation unit and patient hotline will also be set up for complaints.

But again, the board was silent on whether qualifications including fellowship of the Australasian College of Dermatologists would be accepted.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson said the plan was promising but “open to interpretation”.

“After prevaricating for more than four years on this, health ministers have finally seen the light and taken the action we’ve been calling for, and it’s a shame it took media exposure of some of the horrific outcomes for patients we’ve seen happen under the misleading term ‘cosmetic surgeon’.”

“The AMA has been fighting to preserve the use of the title ‘surgeon’ only for practitioners who have undertaken significant, accredited surgical training, such as plastic surgeons,” Professor Robson said.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists has also come out in support of a crackdown on the sector and told the independent review an endorsement scheme had “some merit in principle”.

Earlier this year, it called for the creation of an accredited specialist training pathway for cosmetic surgery with input from other specialties including dermatology on its scope of practice.

“This will ensure that patients seeking cosmetic surgery can rely on the same level of regulation and standard of care as those undergoing surgery for medical procedures,” the college said in a submission.

But it pushed back against any move to prevent dermatologists trained and qualified to perform surgical procedures to be able to advertise the fact or use longstanding titles like ‘Mohs surgeon’ or ‘dermatological surgeon’.

“To be prohibited from doing so would compromise patient understanding and public awareness,” the submission added.

“Like ophthalmology and obstetrics and gynaecology, dermatology is a combined medical and surgical speciality that is recognised by the Medical Board of Australia and accredited by the AMC.”

The limbic reached out to Minister Butler’s office but was yet to receive a response before publishing this story.

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