The New South Wales Parliament Joint Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission recently released a report on their findings from their inquiry into public safety surrounding cosmetic health service in Australia, prompted from the death of Ms Jean Huang earlier this year and the several lawsuits against The Cosmetic Institute (TCI) that are still ongoing. They recognised a need to review the existing regulatory framework for cosmetic procedures to identify whether it adequately protected the public and what could be improved to better do so.
Complaints assessment process – Protecting the Public
The Commission acknowledged that the current framework to protect consumers is complex and that in order to better regulate the industry and improve complaint handling it is essential the several State and Commonwealth agencies and independent bodies involved all work together and coordinate responses in circumstances where necessary. This includes the HCCC, NSW Health, NSW Fair Trading, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). It was also identified that it is essential that the HCCC has the appropriate authority to enforce regulations and to take steps to do so.
While the HCCC recognises that in the current environment it cannot stop unregistered practitioners from operating, they have specified that unregistered practitioners carrying out cosmetic health services must adhere to a number of standards including:
- Maintaining competence in the practitioner’s field and not providing health care outside of their training and expertise
- Understanding potential adverse interactions between treatments the practitioner provides and other medication the client is taking
- Not financially exploiting clients
- Not misinforming clients or misrepresenting anything in relation to the products or services the practitioner provides or his or her qualifications, training or professional associations.
The findings reported that inspections of licensed and unlicensed facilities are to be carried out at least once per year, both announced and random, to identify the risk rating of the facility. NSW Health also carries out targeted inspections and investigations on premises where cosmetic health service procedures are being carried out unlawfully, or there is concern they may be doing so. These inspections are to ensure appropriate infection control standards and that practitioners are working within their scope of practice based on their education, knowledge, competence and lawful authority, among other expectations of a cosmetic service provider.
The committee also addressed the following:
- Illegal importation of Schedule 4 medications which includes botulinum (Botox) and fillers
- Use of the title Cosmetic Surgeon, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and medical practitioner – restricted to those with appropriate qualifications and training
- Practitioners employing an appropriate Duty of Care for patients, including psychological evaluation if necessary, an enforced cooling off period
- False advertising and results of practitioners on their treatments and procedures offered
- Prescription of medicines and medical devices restricted to those appropriately qualified to do so.
Another important recognition of the report was to promote a public awareness of the cosmetic service industry and to educate them on the procedures including the risks and what training and qualifications their service providers should have. The HCCC also recognised its role in the collaboration with other agencies to inform the public of those cosmetic health service providers that are not providing satisfactory practices or complying with the law.
This Inquiry was long overdue and has covered all the issues and concerns surrounding the cosmetic health care industry that is necessary to protect patients and consumers moving forward. We are happy these issues have finally been addressed in an official Inquiry however as this report has only put forward recommendations, actual implementation and enforcement of the findings are yet to be accepted and formalised. We will watch with interest!
If you’d like to read the full report click here.
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