About a year ago I responded to a recruitment ad in “theosteopath” magazine for new members to the Investigating Committee. However on receiving the information pack and the application form, I realised that applying for the post was a serious and time-consuming exercise – time I couldn’t spare just then – but more importantly I didn’t seem to be the sort of person they were after. They wanted someone who could show they had been formulating and implementing equality and diversity policies, or managing to be effective in a corporate governance setting, or had a working knowledge of the medico-legal framework of healthcare regulation and a unique perspective regarding its application. I am paraphrasing, but what I am trying to say is that the impression I got was that the only sort of people who could apply for these roles, were the sort of people who had previously been in these roles. I decided that a career involving ‘just’ treating people and going on courses, while I swam, watched films, had babies and cooked in my spare time, had not really made me the sort of person who belonged in that world. Not only did I lack any relevant experience, I would need a translator to interpret the legal and corporate language, a speedlearning course in healthcare regulation, the Human Rights act, the Osteopaths’ Act, and several other Acts of Parliament, some new, business-like, smart clothes, a course in public speaking, and a huge dose of confidence from somewhere. I consigned the form to the pile on my desk that attracts things I am not going to do, but don’t quite want to throw away yet, with the idea that maybe I could go about getting some sort of experience before I applied again.
Then I attended my first General Osteopathic Council meeting as an observer and was encouraged to come along to the recruitment workshop in September. I had no idea that anyone could apply to be on the Council, as if for any other job. I honestly thought you had to be invited, a bit like becoming a member of the MCC, and then get elected by osteopaths. There’s no way I know enough people to vote for me, so the idea of being an actual member of the Council had never even entered my consciousness. However those elections no longer happen. These days members are appointed by application form and interview process, selected by a panel of four. Last Saturday twenty four of us turned up at Osteopathy House for a short day finding out from Tim Walker (Registrar), Alison White (Chair of GOsC), Maurice Cheng (of iO), Matthew (GOsC) and some acting Registrant members about the positions on offer: what it was like to be on council or a committee, what was expected of us, how to fill in the form, how to express ourselves at interview, and even how to dress. They evidently realised that I was not the only applicant who had refused at the first fence because it seemed a bit too high. So they put on this day to embolden us to have a go. I certainly needed this. It’s a brave new world for me. I don’t think I have ever even been for an interview for an osteopathy job, certainly not one where I am up against keen competitors and have to face a panel. I thought my CV was OK till one of the Council Members went through it and I realised that it read like a dull, dated, school-leaver’s effort. Thank God I didn’t submit it without showing it to someone first. The work arena is slick and competitive now, and at the age of 46, mentioning your straight-A O-level results does not make you sound intelligent; an interest in Japanese cinema doesn’t make you sound interesting; nobody is overly interested in your son’s football team, and you put references on the application form, not the CV. You really have to sell yourself (in an evidence-based way, for example by showing how you have dealt with a difficult situation, not by Apprentice-style bragging). There is no doubt the process is a challenge, but if you really care about the profession and feel that you are the right person to be sitting around that table, here’s a sketch of the positions.
General Osteopathic Council Members
There are 5 posts for osteopaths on the actual Council. It meets four or five times a year. The post lasts four years, and everyone can only serve a maximum of eight. You will be paid for your time, and receive induction and training. You need to have about 18 days (possible a little more) per year to spare. There are big bundles of notes to read that you might need the training to understand. If you want to apply, get your information pack here and find a link to the application forms here. Your role is to contribute to the diversity of thought in the Council, to scrutinize, approve, comment on what the Executive is doing, to set a clear direction and generally to maintain a high standard of governance. You are not there to rubber stamp; I think the idea is that you have something intelligent and insightful to say, but don’t push your own osteopathic agenda. You are not there to stamp out cranial, or push for classical to be the basis of undergraduate education, and you need to support council decisions even if you have voted against something. Yes, it’s collective responsibility, there’s a method. The closing date for applications is noon, Wednesday 21st October. You’ll need to prepare carefully though; it’s not a trivial thing. If you are shortlisted there are various interview dates in December and January, and you will be called on one day, and must be available for the whole day, possibly being required to do a presentation and group exercises (oh no it is sounding a bit like the Apprentice). The selection panel includes Alison White (the chair), Dr Drysdale (formerly of BCOM), Bronwen Curtis and Dame Suzy Leather. The appointment begins on April 16th 2016. If you are from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you might have a bit of an advantage as the Council has to have at least one member from each country, and the long distance to travel might deter some potential rivals.
The Investigating Committee – 2 posts
These will be advertised soon (late September or October – keep your eye on the GOsC website). There are 3 Fitness to Practice committees, and the IC looks first at all complaints made against osteopaths, to decide if there is a case to answer, and if an osteopath needs an interim suspension. The IC meets for one day at a time, as a panel of 5-7 members from a pool of 13. (Seven of these are osteopaths.) Each person ends up sitting 4 or 5 times a year. (There are in the region of 40 complaints per year, roughly half of which are referred by the IC to the PCC.) You are paid £306 a day plus reading fees. You need to be good at reading a lot of information and understanding it very quickly. You also need fairness, discretion, tact and common sense. You will get legal training.
The Professional Conduct/Health Committees – 2 positions
These are the two other Fitness to Practice committees, and the same people form both of them. (If the issue with an osteopath is their health, then a Health Committee is called; otherwise a PCC is held). These will be advertised on the GOsC website soon (along with the IC posts). The PCC operates as panels of 3, drawn from a larger pool. Each member sits for 12-15 days, and cases last 1 to 5 days. You would have to be available for 5-day stretches. They hear complaints referred on by the IC. Again you would be appointed for up to 4 years.
At the end of the day, I suspect most people went away inspired, informed and more likely to have a go than they were before. You can apply for all three roles, but that might dilute the force of your intention. (It’s quite hard to argue that your heart’s desire is to be on the PCC, it’s where you belong, and you absolutely have the specific skills and talents required, and by the way you’re also applying for the other two). And the last word was from Maurice, I think, who asked that if we don’t succeed in getting a place, at least can we still all engage in some way. If you don’t make it into GOsC, there are probably equally exciting opportunities at iO.