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Ophthalmologists now among few specialties that can use ‘surgeon’ title

surgeon title

The Queensland parliament has passed a new law restricting use of the title ‘surgeon’ to doctors registered in one of three recognised specialties of surgery, including ophthalmology.

Prior to this, any registered medical practitioner could refer to themselves as a ‘surgeon’ without completing specialist surgery training or being registered in a surgical specialty.

The move, welcomed by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), regulates the cosmetic industry to prevent rogue medical practitioners from using the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’.

In addition to ophthalmology, obstetrics and gynaecology are the only other only specialities that can now call themselves surgeons.

“This is good for patient safety and what patients asked for. It will make sure that when a medical practitioner uses the word surgeon, it means something very specific about their skills and qualifications,” Dr Anne Tonkin AO, chair of the Medical Board of Australia, said.

Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher said passing the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Surgeons) Amendment Bill was  a win for the public “and will remove a lot of confusion when patients are making choices about cosmetic surgery”.

Unregistered or underqualified practitioners misusing the title face a criminal offence punishable by a maximum fine of $60,000- or three-years’ imprisonment, or both.

The amendment follows a commissioned review into the cosmetic surgery industry by Ahpra and the MBA in November 2021. Ahpra found that universal minimum standards for education, training and qualifications for the cosmetic industry were not achieved.

As part of cosmetic reform and in response to the commission recommendations, Ahpra is moving to establish an endorsement for the industry. This involves higher professional standards and more stringent advertising requirements for cosmetic procedures.

Patients can also check the register of practitioners confirm a surgeon’s qualifications and training and if they have any restrictions on their practice.

The Queensland Parliament is the host jurisdiction for the National Law. This means now that the Amendment Bill has been passed in Queensland Parliament the changes will automatically apply in most states and territories after assent. It is anticipated Western Australia will introduce a corresponding Amendment Bill soon. South Australia and NSW will make a regulation to confirm application of the amendments in their states.

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