New screening rules for people seeking cosmetic surgery and Botox

People seeking cosmetic surgery – even Botox – may find themselves on a psychiatrist’s couch being evaluated under tough new rules being imposed by the Medical Board from July. 

People seeking cosmetic surgery such as facelifts, nose jobs, breast work – and even Botox injections – may face being referred to a psychiatrist under tough new rules likely to further clog the beleaguered health system. 

Medical Board of Australia rules to come into effect from July 1 mean anyone seeking cosmetic surgery also will need a GP referral. 

The surgeon then must assess the patient for underlying psychological conditions which may make them unsuitable for the surgery, using a “validated psychological screening tool” which is still under development. 

“If screening indicates the patient has significant underlying psychological issues which may make them an unsuitable candidate for the cosmetic surgery, they must be referred for evaluation to a psychologist, psychiatrist or GP,” the Medical Board rules state.

People seeking “cosmetic injectables’ such as Botox face a similar screening test and possibility of being sent to a psychologist or psychiatrist for evaluation. 

The rules also call for the surgeon to discuss the patient’s motivation “for example a perceived need to please others” and ensure the patient’s expectations are realistic. 

The changes come after the Medical Board commissioned an independent review “following media reports that revealed serious patient safety concerns including hygiene breaches, poor patient care, unsatisfactory surgical outcomes, and aggressive and inappropriate advertising.” 

Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons president, Adelaide-based Dr Tim Edwards partly welcomed the GP referral move, noting some cosmetic procedures “such as prominent ears or droopy eyelids” can be claimed under Medicare provided there is such a referral. 

However, he warned it would add further pressure to GP clinics already under strain.

Surgeons also fear the extra hurdles to have cosmetic surgery – and risk of being sent to a psychologist or psychiatrist for evaluation – will deter people from seeking what could be life-changing cosmetic surgery. 

Dr Edwards noted the reforms failed to include issues surgeons had lobbied for such as cosmetic surgery only being done by registered specialists, that a back-up specialist be on call if the original specialist suddenly becomes unavailable, that such surgery be done in accredited facilities and the surgeon have admitting rights for an overnight stay if unexpectedly needed.

-The Advertiser 18th April 2023


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