AMA calls for restrictions on the title of “surgeon”

AMA submissions call for restricting the title of “surgeon” to medical practitioners with significant surgical training, and for a regulatory approach within the cosmetic surgery industry to provide certainty to patients and practitioners. 

Recent high-profile media stories, such as the Four Corners investigation into cosmetic surgery, have prompted health ministers to address an issue which has been on their agenda since July 2018.  

It follows on from concern expressed for many years by the AMA that patients may be misled by the term “cosmetic surgeon” or “podiatric surgeon”, believing they are dealing with a medical practitioner who has formal and specific surgical qualifications when in fact they may not. 

In a submission, responding to a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement released by the Health Council, (comprising of federal, state and territory health ministers), the AMA has supported restricting the use of title “surgeon” to surgical fields of practice approved by the Health Council.   

This includes the 10 RACS fields of practice, ophthalmology, and fields of practice within obstetrics and gynaecology which are surgically based. Additional areas of practice may be added in the future, for example “rural generalist surgeon”, subject to recognition by the Australian Medical Council. 

The AMA does not support non-medical practitioners using the title, in particular podiatric surgeons. 

The intention of this position is to ensure patients have a clear understanding of the training and experience of the provider of surgical procedures, and these practitioners have appropriate training and experience in performing them. 

The AMA has also lodged a submission responding to a separate but concurrent review of patient safety issues and the regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery being undertaken by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Medical Board of Australia. 

The AMA submission supports a regulatory approach which provides certainty to patients and practitioners through ensuring clarity of scope and standards of practice.   

The AMA supports:  

  • Exploration of the requirement for an endorsement in cosmetic surgery to be added to the registration of  medical practitioners who undertake cosmetic surgery (and who are not plastic surgeons).  

  • New information being provided to consumers; and  

  • Better collection of data and information about cosmetic surgery in Australia to inform policy, regulation and research. 

The AMA believes the above approaches will improve patient safety, with patients assured any practitioner using the title surgeon will have undertaken a rigorous and consistent program of post-graduate surgical training, accredited by the Australian Medical Council.    

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