Australia’s peak body for cosmetic surgeons, the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS), has called on federal and state governments to strengthen its guidelines to protect the thousands of Australians seeking cosmetic procedures each year.
The call to introduce a national accreditation system for any practitioner undertaking cosmetic surgical procedures, follows revelations made on ABC’s Four Corners program on 13 August 2018, highlighting how some practitioners are putting patients’ lives in danger.
The program exposed the high-volume, low cost practices of The Cosmetic Institute (TCI), at Parramatta and Bondi Junction. Practitioners at TCI, which were trained and overseen by an Australian plastic surgeon, rendered some patients unconscious during procedures when they were only licensed to provide conscious or ‘twilight’ sedation.
Senior members of the ACCS initially alerted authorities to the dubious practices at TCI in 2015, in the interests of public safety.
ACCS Vice-President Dr Patrick Tansley said up to five types of medical operators were calling themselves ‘cosmetic surgeons’ when most did not have the professional authority to do so, leading to confusion among patients and regulators.
“Almost anyone on the medical practitioner spectrum can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, from ‘fly-in, fly-out’ operators, registered GPs and plastic surgeons, right up to the highest standard of Fellow of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery,” Dr Tansley said.
“Patients have no way of knowing whether their surgeon is properly qualified and has undergone specific training in cosmetic surgery.”
“Australia’s most highly trained cosmetic surgeons are usually ACCS Fellows. They are regularly called upon to correct botched procedures performed by untrained and inexperienced practitioners.”
“The current system is a complete lottery for patients. There is no simple, national and easily recognisable way for patients to know whether they are in safe hands.”
“ACCS Fellows have the strongest credentials in the practice of cosmetic surgery, including two years of mandatory dedicated cosmetic surgery training, following 4-6 years earning a medical degree, and a further five years surgical experience. No other body has the same degree of rigour and standards for cosmetic surgery.”
Whilst the ACCS acknowledges there are some talented plastic surgeons in Australia, the country’s peak medical training regulator, the Australian Medical Council (AMC), last year found plastic surgeons trained by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons had a ‘deficit’ in their experience of aesthetic surgery and a ’gap’ in this area of practice. Read the AMC’s report here (pg. 123).
In comparison, only Fellows of the ACCS have mandatory two years dedicated cosmetic surgery training.
The ACCS is calling on the Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to bring together the
Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, state ministerial colleagues and other stakeholders to develop a system of accreditation to provide better and safer outcomes for patients.