More robust guidelines are expected for registered practitioners performing and advertising aesthetic treatments in the non-surgical cosmetic procedures sector.
The planned overhauls would likely emphasize informed consent and pre-procedure consultation, including a patient suitability assessment. Further, the focus would be on prescribing and administering prescription-only cosmetic injectables.
Meanwhile, proposed new advertising guidelines would likely focus on the use of ‘before and after’ images, claims about the expertise and qualifications of practitioners, and affirm the ban on the use of testimonials. Further, clear rules expect to outline the use of influencers and social media figures.
Public consultation about the proposed non-surgical procedure guidelines would open in the coming months before the release in the first six months of 2024.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) CEO Martin Fletcher said undergoing these (non-surgical procedure) services is “not like getting a haircut”, and they “come with risk.”
“We want to ensure the public knows what safe practice looks like and that practitioners are doing everything necessary to keep the public safe,” Mr. Fletcher said.
“The more frequent use of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, and the expanded range of practitioners who provide them, creates the potential to put a more extensive section of the community at risk of some harm.”
The new reforms come after the number of reported severe harm complaints caused by cosmetic surgery grew significantly after the last 18 months of focused attention on the sector.
Recent examples investigated by AHPRA include a doctor who administered a series of filler injections to a patient despite the patient disclosing a history of mental illness, body image issues and dissatisfaction with the results of 10 previous non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Further, a registered nurse treated another patient with dermal fillers despite the patient having several known skin conditions that made the treatments inappropriate and dangerous. Following treatment, the patient’s adverse reaction required dissolving the fillers and steroid treatment to address the response.
However, because enrolled and registered nurses perform many non-surgical cosmetic procedures, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) recently established an updated position statement.
Nurses and Cosmetic Medical Procedures
From June 2023, the nurses and cosmetic medical procedures strengthened the position statement (PDF) to provide clear guidelines to nurse practitioners (NPs), registered nurses (RNs) and enrolled nurses (ENs) working in or wanting to join the cosmetic sector.
NMBA Chair Veronica Casey AM said the work NMBA previously undertook for the position statement only provided clear advice for nurses working in cosmetics to ensure public safety.
“But as the sector grows, now is the time to strengthen our regulatory position and provide further clarity to nurses looking to work and working in this space. The public needs to feel safe and know that nurses performing these procedures are appropriately educated and competent,” Ms. Casey said.
Further, the statement captured the NMBA’s position on nurses in cosmetic medical and surgical procedures. The main focus was minor (non-surgical) cosmetic medical procedures (‘cosmetic medical procedures’).
It comes after work was advanced and completed to implement all 16 recommendations from the September 2022 Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery.
Medical Board of Australia (MBA) Chair Dr Anne Tonkin AO said positive impact stemmed from strengthened practice.
“We are pleased that most practitioners have worked constructively with us towards these reforms. The endorsement for cosmetic surgery will also improve patient safety by bringing in practice standards where there have been none,” Dr. Tonkin said.
Cosmetic Surgery One Year On
After the independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery report was released on Sept. 1 2022, the Cosmetic Surgery Hotline launched on Sept. 5 2022.
Recently, the Hotline totaled 428 calls from patients concerned about their treatment, doctors who have had to address poor outcomes, and consumers keen to make informed choices.
“In the same period, we have received 179 formal complaints or notifications, and as a result, 14 doctors are no longer practicing cosmetic surgery or have significant restrictions as an interim measure while investigations continue,” AHPRA said.
“A further 12 doctors had restrictions on their registration after an investigation.”
AHPRA recently investigated further Cosmetic Surgery Hotline case examples, including a doctor who provided a patient with filler injections and additional treatments despite the patient disclosing unhappy results from a history of 10 previous non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Further, the patient had a history of mental illness and disclosed her body image issues to the doctor before the series of filler injections.
AHPRA’s investigation found the doctor failed to manage the patient’s mental health concerns, continued with treatment despite her body image issues and did not correctly gain consent. Conditions are now on the doctor’s registration, restricting practice.
More robust public safeguards are also needed because consumer demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures has escalated, and more practitioners continue to seek a career path in the cosmetics industry.
The cosmetic treatment industry estimated Australians collectively spend more than one billion dollars a year on non-surgical procedures, from Botox injections and fillers to fat-dissolving injections and thread lifts performed by doctors, nurses, dentists and other health practitioners.