From 1 July 2023, the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) will implement updated guidelines for cosmetic surgery that encompasses regulations concerning appointment scheduling, surgical bookings and marketing, and will apply to all doctors who perform cosmetic surgery.
The new guidelines also apply to a lesser extent to non-surgical cosmetic procedures that may pierce the skin but doesn’t cut beneath it, such as injectable treatments.
Cosmetic surgery is defined as procedures aimed at altering or modifying the appearance, colour, texture, structure, or position of natural bodily features, primarily with the objective of attaining a more desirable aesthetic outcome. Cosmetic surgery procedures differ from medically-necessary or reconstructive plastic surgery procedures, in that they generally do not attract any Medicare or private health insurance rebates.
In most cases, our team can provide guidance when booking your first consultation appointment as to whether the surgery will be classified as cosmetic or medically-necessary. However, for certain procedures that have specific or complex Medicare criteria, which determine their qualification as medically-necessary, it may be necessary to wait until your assessment during the consultation with your Specialist Plastic Surgeon.
Examples of cosmetic procedures can include, but not limited to, the following when not deemed medically-necessary:
- Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
- Augmentation mammaplasty (breast augmentation)
- Brachioplasty (arm lift)
- Blepharoplasty (lower and/or upper eyelids)
- Breast revision (removal and replacement of breast implants)
- Brow lift
- Face lift
- Fat grafting
- Mastopexy (breast lift)
- Neck lift
- Otoplasty (ear correction)
- Rhinoplasty (nose surgery)
We have outlined below details of the stages you can expect throughout your cosmetic surgery experience at our practice:
You will require a referral letter
To start your surgical journey with us, it will be necessary to obtain a referral letter from your usual general practitioner (GP), who can then refer you to a Specialist Plastic Surgeon. If you do not have a usual GP, you have the option of seeking a referral letter from another GP or Specialist.
Please note, a GP who provides non-surgical cosmetic procedures part-time/in addition to their usual general practice cannot refer a patient for cosmetic surgery.
It is mandatory for your referring doctor to inquire about your reasons for pursuing cosmetic surgery and whether you have been previously denied by another medical professional. Obtaining a referral letter from your referring GP aids in determining whether your surgical requirements will be fulfilled and provides crucial information regarding your medical history to the Specialist Plastic Surgeon. While the initial consultation with the referring GP is eligible for a Medicare rebate, please note that your consultation with the surgeon may not necessarily qualify for a Medicare rebate.
Non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as cosmetic injectables, do not require a referral.
You will be asked to complete a psychological questionnaire
An important aspect of your surgical journey is the care your Specialist Plastic Surgeon has for your overall well-being and therefore, they need to exclude important but uncommon causes for dissatisfaction with your appearance, such as body dysmorphic disorder. This can be done with a simple psychology questionnaire prior to or at the time of your appointment. The questionnaire will be given to you electronically, face to face, or as a paper questionnaire. Your surgeon may ask you to see another health practitioner (e.g. psychologist) if there are concerns raised in your questionnaire.
Your surgeon will assess if you are a good candidate to undergo surgery
Cosmetic surgery is not suitable for every patient seeking such procedures. The main factor that can lead a surgeon to decline performing surgery is their assessment that it may not be in your best interest. This determination can be influenced by various factors, including the expectation of minimal enhancement in your appearance following the surgery or increased risks associated with the procedure due to underlying health conditions. In such instances, your surgeon will discuss alternative options, whether non-surgical or provided by another healthcare professional, that could be more appropriate for your specific situation.
You will require two consultations before booking surgery
In order to ensure your comprehensive understanding of the surgery, including its associated risks and alternatives, your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will conduct two pre-operative consultations with you. At least one of the two consultations must be in person and the other consultation(s) can be in person or by video.
Following the second consultation, you will be requested to sign a consent form, which serves as an agreement between you and the doctor, confirming your willingness to proceed with the surgery.
Once the two consultations are completed, a cooling-off period of at least seven (7) days will require to be completed. After this period, you will then have the opportunity to schedule a date for your surgery and make a deposit payment.
Please note these two consultations and cooling-off period are mandatory and cannot be waived.
In order to safeguard the well-being of patients under the age of 18 who may be more susceptible to body image concerns, the cosmetic surgery guidelines mandate specific requirements. These include obtaining a referral from an independent psychologist, psychiatrist, or GP who is not directly involved in performing the procedure. Additionally, a minimum cooling-off period of three (3) months is necessary between the time of providing informed consent (i.e. the second consultation) and the actual surgical procedure. These measures aim to ensure adequate time for reflection and consideration before proceeding with the surgery.
You will be provided with all the information you need to know in order to make an informed decision
As part of your surgical journey, your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and our team will provide you with:
- Written information about the surgical procedure
- Comprehensive explanation of the recovery process, including details on any necessary recovery services like massages or compression garments, and expected or potential lifestyle changes such as absence from employment or temporary restrictions on activity
- Information regarding the possibility and associated costs of revisional surgery in both the short and long term
- Informed Financial Consent details, including costs related to the surgeon, anaesthetist, medical devices, garments, and hospital expenses (if available, or where to obtain them if not available)
We wish you a safe and smooth journey with your surgery. Be sure you do your research and seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon before proceeding with surgery. Should you have any questions, we encourage you to discuss these with your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and their team.
Return to News & Surgeon Blog