Changes to the Consultation Process for Cosmetic Surgery


On 1 July 2023 new ‘Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures’ will apply. These guidelines were developed by the Medical Board of Australia and will be in force in every state and territory in Australia.


What do these new guidelines mean for our patients?

These guidelines only apply to people seeking cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery has been defined in the guidelines as ‘procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of normal bodily features with the dominant purpose of achieving what the patient perceives to be a more desirable appearance’.

This means cosmetic surgery is NOT: gender affirmation surgery, reconstructive surgery, and surgery that has a medical justification. Additionally, any surgery that has a medical justification and leads to an improvement in appearance is not considered cosmetic surgery. If your surgery attracts a Medicare item number it is considered medically justified and therefore not cosmetic surgery, for example, breast reduction and abdominoplasty that qualify for Medicare item numbers are not considered cosmetic surgery.

If your surgery is for gender affirmation, reconstructive reasons, or medically justified there is no change to the current process for your consultation and surgery.

If your surgery is considered cosmetic the following changes apply from 1 July 2023.

You must have a referral from your general practitioner (GP) or specialist before having a consultation regarding cosmetic surgery. Ideally the medical professional who knows you best and can write a referral that provides information about your medical history and reasons for exploring cosmetic surgery. This referring doctor cannot perform cosmetic surgery or non-surgical cosmetic procedures themselves. The only exception to this, is a plastic surgeon referring you to another plastic surgeon for a second opinion, and you must have your original referral.

You must have completed a questionnaire that screens for underlying psychological conditions that would make cosmetic surgery an unhelpful option to explore further. This is not a mental health diagnostic process. It is a brief tool to identify people who might find it useful to have further conversation with their referring doctor, or other GP, psychologist or psychiatrist to determine whether cosmetic surgery is an option that would be helpful to continue exploring or not. If the questionnaire suggests further discussion, then once this has taken place and it is determined you are a suitable candidate to explore cosmetic surgery, your consultation can go ahead. If the questionnaire indicates it is suitable to proceed without further evaluation, then your cosmetic surgery consultation will proceed as planned.

The last main change is a 7-day cooling off period between your initial consultations and booking your surgery. At Avery we have two consultations before you are able to book your surgery, and a third several weeks before the surgery itself. Your surgical consent (fully understanding the risks associated with your surgery) and financial consent (fully understanding the financial obligations with your surgery) must be provided before your surgery can be booked and deposit paid, at least 7 days after your initial consultations.

These requirements apply to all surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery. 

More information can be found on the The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website.