President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), Dr Naveen Somia has welcomed the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Cosmetic Health Service Complaints’ recommendations that unscrupulous providers of cosmetic treatments, who put patient safety at risk, will be subject to more significant consequences.
“We thank those Members of Parliament who were involved in this rigorous process and who listened to our concerns about repeated safety breaches that resulted in patients being harmed.
“ASAPS has been petitioning Governments at all levels to tighten regulations to improve patient safety for many years, so it’s encouraging to see we are moving in the right direction,” Dr Somia said.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee presented 16 recommendations to the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, during Parliament on 20 November. ASAPS was pleased that most of these recommendations called for an improved, national approach to regulating the cosmetic medicine industry.
One of the key recommendations is that the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon‘ should be restricted or protected under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. Currently, a loophole in the Australian health system allows anyone to use the term ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ – even if they are not a registered surgeon.
Dr Somia said protecting patients should be the sole focus of any regulatory review and legislative change and these recommendations are a critical first step towards closing this loophole.
“In the interest of patient safety, ASAPS recommends that all doctors should only use their Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) approved title. Since the term ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ is not an AHPRA approved title, this term has no official status and serves no purpose other than to mislead and create confusion for patients,” Dr Somia said.
Dr Somia said it was pleasing that the NSW Joint Committee has prioritised patient safety and that this will now be continued in discussions with COAG Health Council where this very issue is currently being considered.
“Most Australians would be astounded to know how relaxed our laws are around who can perform invasive surgical procedures,” Dr Somia said.
One of the Committee’s recommendations was that General Practitioners (GP) could play an increased role in providing independent advice to patients considering cosmetic procedures.
“ASAPS would support this recommendation as the disruption of the GP referral process has meant patients now bypass a potential mental health gatekeeper, allowing patients direct access to a surgeon’s practice. Not surprisingly, Specialist Plastic Surgeons now encounter people with body image issues.
“The unprecedented expansion of the cosmetic industry over the past two decades has seen the rise of providers who put profits over patients. These commercial entities prey on the vulnerabilities of people seeking cosmetic procedures offering cheap, no-frills services that do not have any quality or safety standards thereby compromising patient safety and surgical outcomes.
“We applaud the NSW Government that has recognised these problems and is taking steps to improve patient safety. We would hope that this becomes a more unified national approach in due course and are grateful that we have had the opportunity to contribute to the process.
“We now encourage the members of COAG involved in the review of the National Law concerning Australia’s health professions to take up these recommendations to improve patient safety in every state and territory across Australia,” Dr Somia said.
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