Osteopaths are regulated under the Osteopaths Act (1993) and were the first complementary medical profession to achieve statutory self regulation.The profession is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council, (GOsC), www.osteopathy.org.uk, who administer the act with regard to the education, registration and conduct of all osteopaths.
All osteopaths in this practice are registered with the GOsC.
One of the benefits of the Osteopaths Act (1993), is that the title "Osteopath" is itself protected by law and only those registered with the GOsC may call themselves an Osteopath.
The GOsC, in common with the registering bodies of other professions, such as medicine or dentistry, has a responsibility to protect the public and has a number of legal powers in order to do this. It has the power to consider cases where it is alleged that an osteopath has behaved in an unacceptible or incompetent way, has a criminal record, or is unable to practice because of their mental or physical health.
Whilst most problems about the sort of service received or the osteopaths behaviour are misunderstandings that can be resolved locally by contacting the osteopath directly, the GOsC is there to listen to any compaints members of the public may have and to advise on the best course of action. Any complaint will first be investigated and if it is decided that there is a case to answer, the matter will be referred to the Professional Conduct committee (PCC) or to the Health Committee (HC).
It may then be decided that a hearing is required. This is a formal meeting, similar to a courtroom, where the committee listens to both sides and comes to a decision. PCC hearings are held in public and HC hearings are held privately. If it is decided that the allegations are true the GOsC has the power to suspend an osteopath from practice, or impose suitable conditions upon any further practice. In the most serious of cases they can stop the person from practicing as an osteopath by removing their name from the register.
This much may be, more or less, what you would expect! But the GOsC's code of practice does put a number of very positive points and rather than just saying what will happen if things go wrong, it also tells osteopaths what their responsibities are to make sure that things go right.
For example as an osteopath you must:
- Put your patients first.
- Foster and maintain trust between you and your patients.
- Listen to patients and respect their views.
- Give patients the information they need to be sure they understand you.
- Respect and protect confidential information.
- Respect patients autonomy and freedom to make their own choices.
- Maintain and develop your professional knowledge and skills.
- Practice within your professional competence.
- Never abuse your professional position.
- Respect the skills of other health care professionals and work in cooperation with them.
- Respond promptly and consructively to criicism and complaints.
- Act Quickly if you believe that a colleagues conduct, health or professional performance - or your own - may pose a threat to patients.
This last point is particularly interesting. As you can see it means that osteopaths are obliged to act as "whistleblowers" concerning both our colleagues and ourselves.
For further information about the work of the GOsC, or to view a database of osteopaths registered with them, visit (www.osteopathy.org.uk), or telephone 020 7357 6655.