New Protections for the Title of ‘Surgeon’ under the National Law

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This article applies to organisations that employ health practitioners.

Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Surgeons) Amendment Act 2023 (Qld)

On 20 September 2023, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Surgeons) Amendment Act 2023 (Qld) (the Amending Act) amended the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld) (the National Law) to restrict the use of the title of ‘surgeon’ to certain specialist surgeons only.

Surgeon – now a protected title

Prior to the introduction of the Amending Act, the title of ‘surgeon’ was not a protected title under the National Law unless it was linked to an approved specialist title (e.g., a specialist plastic surgeon). This meant that medical practitioners in areas that are not approved specialist areas, such as cosmetic surgery, could market themselves as a cosmetic surgeon regardless of their qualifications or training. Recent reviews had found that this use of the title of ‘surgeon’ did not align with the community expectation that those using the title would have advanced surgical training.

The introduction of the new section 115A has remedied this issue, by restricting its use and creating an offence for medical practitioners who are not members of the surgical class to knowingly or recklessly:

  • take or use the title of surgeon; or
  • take or use a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description that, having regard to the circumstances in which it is taken or used, indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate the practitioner is a member of a surgical class; or
  • claim to be, or hold out as being, a member of the surgical class.

The maximum penalty, in the case of an individual, is $60,000, 3 years imprisonment or both.

The Amending Act has also made it an offence for a person or organisation to knowingly or recklessly make the same representations about a medical practitioner. The maximum penalty for this offence, in the case of an individual, is $60,000, 3 years imprisonment or both, and for a body corporate is $120,000.

Surgical class is defined as the classes of medical practitioners holding specialist registration in the recognised specialties of surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology or another recognised specialty in the medical profession with the word “surgeon” in a specialist title for the specialty.

Medical practitioners who hold registration in the dentists division of the dental profession, or who are permitted under the National Law or another State or Territory law to use the title “surgeon” for practising a profession other than the medical profession may continue to take or use that title.


Organisations that employ medical practitioners should ensure that their systems and processes are appropriately updated to reflect the changes outlined above.

How Health Legal can help:

For further information please contact the Health Legal and Law Compliance team via our contact page here.