In brief

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has issued a public warning under section 94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (NSW) in relation to unsafe and illegal practices in beauty and cosmetic clinics. The warning has been issued due to an increase in complaints regarding cosmetic procedures undertaken in cosmetic clinics and the risks to the health and safety of individuals attending those clinics.

The warning arises out of increasing consumer spending on a range of cosmetic services which often include the administration of Schedule 4 prescription-only medication including Botox and dermal fillers. 

Warning to consumers

The current warning urges individuals seeking cosmetic procedures or cosmetic surgery to be vigilant in their research prior to proceeding. The commission has stated that the following factors should be considered by individuals before committing to the procedure or surgery:
  • is the facility appropriately registered, infection controlled and equipped?
  • are the products being used registered or unregistered products and do they appear on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods?
  • are the practitioners prescribing the products and medication registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law?
  • are you having 'cosmetic surgery'? If so, these procedures are the subject of new legislative provisions under the Private Health Facilities Act 2007 (NSW) which came into operation in March 2017 and prescribe licensing standards for such facilities
  • have you been appropriately informed about the procedure, whether it is new or experimental, the outcomes, risks and complications associated with the procedure?

Section 94A warnings

A warning under section 94A is a public statement that is issued about a particular treatment or health service that the commission deems necessary to protect public health and safety. Section 94A warnings are rare with only three having been issued in the past 18 months.

Tips to consider for the industry

Cosmetic and beauty clinics and their insurers should establish that, the provision of 'cosmetic surgery' is done so in accordance with its definition under the new legislative provisions and that the requisite licenses under the Private Health Facilities Act 2007 (NSW) are in place and current. 

Further, businesses offering cosmetic procedures should ensure that all facilities are registered and appropriately equipped as well as confirming that all employees, including contractors are registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, if they need to be. Policies and procedures should be in place and staff and contractor professional background checks should be regularly undertaken to ensure continuing compliance.

Health professionals that work in these clinics such as surgeons, nurses, general practitioners and anaesthetists should ensure that they are aware of the law in place that governs cosmetic procedures. Health professionals who work as subcontractors should take steps to make sure that the entity that engages them is appropriately licensed and the policies, training and procedures in place are current, relevant and designed to protect the individuals undergoing treatment.

Insurers of health professionals and businesses that operate in the cosmetic surgery sphere should take steps to ensure that clients are aware of and comply with their obligations under the requisite legislation to minimise the risk of complaints being made and ultimately, exposing individuals and patients to avoidable risks of injury.

Should you have any queries or require any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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