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Review into cosmetic surgeons ‘too little too late’

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Hunter mum Krystal Bailey will no doubt be breathing a small sigh of relief today, after Australia’s health regulator AHPRA announced it will conduct a review into patient safety issues within the cosmetic sector.

Ms Bailey is one of 150 women on a growing list of claims being sought by Catherine Henry Lawyers against one disgraced cosmetic surgeon, Dr Leslie Blackstock.

Krsytal’s nightmare began in 2015 when she trusted Dr Blackstock to fix a botched breast augmentation she’d had the previous year.

His remedy was to replace her implants with even larger ones, a solution that caused her years of pain and countless shed tears.

On Tuesday 30 November Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) announced it would conduct a review of patient safety following decades of devastating cases of patient harm at the hands of “cosmetic surgeons”.

The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), which has been calling for change for years, argues AHPRA’s review is too little too late for those who have lost their lives and for those survivors who have had their lives changed forever.

ASAPS is demanding the medical regulator introduce changes that ensure practitioners are honest and transparent about their AHPRA registration status. 

The rogue title of ‘cosmetic surgeon’ , it says, deprives patients of the ability to make fully informed treatment choices, as doctors with no more than a basic medical degree and other non-surgeons, such as dermatologists, currently refer to themselves as ‘cosmetic surgeons’. 

ASAPS believes only practitioners who have successfully completed Australian Medical Council (AMC) accredited training can use legitimate approved specialist surgical titles and despite the review mentioning an update of current codes of conduct, they feel the review is missing important information from AHPRA around how it will monitor and regulate practitioners.  

Patients , they say, can easily be misled by practitioners claiming to have had ‘years of training’, despite that training not being AMC accredited.

In fact 81% of Australians agree that the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’ implies that the doctor is a registered specialist surgeon.

ASAPS president Dr Robert Sheen said the need for reform is long overdue.

“The laws exist, they are simply not being enforced. Australia’s health regulator (AHPRA) is not regulating,” he said.

“Any doctor who claims to be a surgeon should do so with Australian Medical Council accredited training and AHPRA registration as a surgeon – it is as simple as that. AHPRA must enforce this.”

“It is time for AHPRA to exercise the responsibilities given to it under the National Law – a law that gives AHPRA the power to prevent patient harm in the first place. Instead, AHPRA skirting around an issue that is exploding, without dealing with it at the source.”

“Every day, registered specialist plastic surgeons are faced with the task of correcting botched jobs performed by practitioners who hold out to be registered specialist surgeons,” Dr Robert Sheen continued.

“The ongoing risks to the community are obvious. This joint investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Four Corners is an example of what is going on all over Australia, and it needs to stop now.

“It is too late to address the issue before something terrible happens – because it already has.”

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