23 Feb 2021

Commissioner issues caution about cosmetic treatment services

The Health Complaints Commissioner (the Commissioner) has issued a public caution about the provision of cosmetic services and has urged all providers to abide by the code of conduct for general health services.

Commissioner Karen Cusack said, during the 2019 and 2020 calendar years, her office had closed a total of 123 complaints about cosmetic service treatments conducted by general health service providers; 64 complaints in 2019 and 59 complaints in 2020.

General health service providers (GHSP) are those health service providers who are not registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) under the National Law. GHSPs also include Ahpra-registered practitioners who operate outside their scope of practice, for example a registered midwife working as a doula, or a physiotherapist working as a reiki therapist.

The GHSP cosmetic service complaints closed during 2019 and 2020 encompassed more than 182 issues (noting that a single complaint can include many issues) with an estimated 55 per cent of those pertaining to services and treatments that were not conducted in a safe and ethical manner.

Approximately 90 per cent of the cosmetic treatment service complaints from general health service providers that were closed in 2019 and 2020 came from the Melbourne city area. An estimated 30 per cent of the GHSP cosmetic service complaints closed in 2019 and 2020 related to the use of Botox, injectables, fillers and hyaluron pens during treatments.

“Most cosmetic injectables, including Botox and dermal fillers, are prescription-only medicines and they legally must be prescribed and administered by a registered health practitioner, such as a doctor,” Ms Cusack said.

“There are risks, side effects and possible complications with any cosmetic treatment and the administration of procedures by an unregistered person can greatly increase the chance of something going wrong.”

Ms Cusack urged anyone considering undertaking a cosmetic treatment to ensure they have all the information and advises asking the prospective provider about:

  • their qualifications and experience,

  • the products they use and where the procedure will be carried out,

  • the risks involved,

  • whether they have insurance if something does go wrong.

“Your provider should also be aware of, and adhering to, the code of conduct for general health services, which sets the legal standards for the provision of safe and ethical healthcare in Victoria. To view the code, visit hcc.vic.gov.au/resources/publications

“I take any alleged breach of the code very seriously and I will take the necessary action against providers who put the public’s health at risk,” Commissioner Cusack said.

“There are many safe and ethical cosmetic treatment providers but unfortunately not all abide by what is considered best practice.”

“That is why it is so important that any person considering cosmetic treatment should educate themselves about what can go wrong and what they have a right to expect from their provider,” Ms Cusack said.

“If your expectations for safe and ethical health care have not been met, or if you believe the provider is operating outside the code of conduct for general health services, please call the HCC on 1300 582 113, or lodge a complaint online, at hcc.vic.gov.au/make-complaint