General Osteopathic Council Meeting, Feb 2016 – still talking advertising

First I met the brand new iO President, Robin Lansman

One of the unexpected benefits of attending GOsC meetings, is that you meet all sorts of interesting people;  people from different strands of osteopathy with their own tale to tell.  One of the observers this time was the new President of iO, Robin Lansman, who dropped in for the morning session before a meeting later in Brussels, and I hope taking time to buy a bit of  that most delectable Pierre Marcolini chocolate.  He told me he’d just been interviewed by Simon Mayo on Radio 2’s drivetime.  If you want to see how iO are promoting osteopathy in return for your newly-increased monthly direct debit,  click here for a listen to some peak-time national publicity.  It was broadcast on 27th January, 15 minutes into the episode featuring Jason Isaacs.  (Be quick; it’s not available for long.  You can learn about if and why we are shorter at the end of the day.)  He is hoping to make the iO more transparent, and as someone who has never known anything much about the iO, that is quite welcome.

GOsC Tower Bridge

Then I met an osteopath due to retire

Another observer was an osteopath due to retire soon.  He told me that he’d institued the LAPS scheme years ago when involved with the OAGB.  This makes him something of a grandee in my eyes.  (And he still charmingly refers to it as the OAGB.   I really hope he also eat Marathon bars and cleans the bath with Jif.  He certainly doesn’t use a computer: “no need for it” he told me).  My goodness how I envied his straightforward and happy career.   He has adored clinical practice.  He simply doesn’t understand why younger osteopaths seem to have  “all these problems”, with their difficulties finding enough work, and having all these complaints he reads about.  “What’s going wrong?  Are they just really bad at osteopathy?” he wondered aloud to me.  His formula for success:  “Get a nice room, nice receptionist, be positive with patients and just get them better.  People will come.  Then get a few associates”.    I also learnt a valuable lesson – it’s probably quite a good idea to print off the agenda so you know what the council are actually discussing.  Thanks for letting me look over your shoulder for the entire afternoon session.

Busy busy busy

According to chair Alison White, the council  is operating “at pace”.

Five new osteopaths have been appointed to the PCC

Five osteopaths have been appointed as new members to the PCC.  (Professional Conduct Committee).  If someone complains about you and the first committee (IC) decide that it needs to be referred up to the PCC, one of these osteopaths will be sitting on the panel.  You can find a bit of biographical information about them here.)

The GOsC could change form

It might seem like it’s been a long journey to arrive at the current status quo, and we’re all just getting used to it, but the “architecture of the regulation sector” could well be changing again.  There is a new chair of the PSA, (the PSA is the regulator of OUR regulator; they also regulate other regulators including chiropractors and dentists), and there is a wish for the system to be simplified (this is probably code for fewer regulators, or for one merged and streamlined body).  I optimistically think this might mean cheaper fees, but every stick has two ends, and I suppose it might be a threat to our identity and self-determination.  They are only at the stage of “building up a head of steam” for change, but while there seems to be much aspiration for reform there is no clear map.  And this drive to simplification seems to be at odds with the setting up of another new regulator for social workers.  Watch this space.

Simon Singh’s campaign continues with more complaints about advertising

On the first day of each month (and this began last July, 2015) someone is making twenty five complaints about misleading advertising.  Although this wasn’t explicitly spelt out, the likely complainer can surely only be the GTS – Good Thinking Society (Simon Singh’s crowd).  Now, we might not think these claims are misleading, but they are against the ASA regulations.

Let’s get this clear:  Simon Singh is not the anti-Christ.  He’s not even vehemently  opposed to osteopathy.  On the GTS website he advises that we are gentler and cause fewer injuries than chiropractors, and  even says, in bold, “The evidence that the osteopathic approach is effective for treating back pain is reasonably sound”.   Yes, put that on your leaflets.  It’s the subtle stuff he doesn’t get.  And he really doesn’t like us doing it.  He doesn’t think he’s causing harm by indirectly denying children access to much-needed treatment.  This might be the result of what he’s doing, but his intentions are good, possibly even heroic in the eyes of the skeptical world.  He is acting the way  he is because he really doesn’t believe that osteopaths are able to help babies and children with conditions like asthma and colic.  He has read scientifically implausible accounts of how treatment works, has seen no convincing evidence that it does work, and has come to the understandable conclusion that our treatments don’t work.  He logically thinks that until there is some scientifically  valid research,  the jury is out, and it is morally reprehensible to claim otherwise.  He has the zeal of someone who is certain he is right, who sees the issue in black and white, who believes he is making the world a better place, and who has been subject to a hideous libel action by the Chiropractic Council.  I believe that  NCOR has been fundraising for a study into treatment of children (donations I am sure still gratefully received!) but in the meantime if anyone out there has any evidence, please will you submit it to him now.  Email him!  He will be delighted to hear from you, and claims to be fully able to disengage from any cognitive bias and change his mind when presented with such evidence.

But right now the onus is on osteopaths to abide by the ASA rules, otherwise the GOsC have to waste precious time risk-assessing all these advertising complaints, when there are other, serious complaints which need to be dealt with.  Please can you sort out your websites.  Find out how here.  Just one mention of the word colic will be enough to generate a complaint, and the GTS will probably keep going until they find yours.  So the options are to sort it out now, or to sort it out with a complaint hanging over your head.

This has also thrown the role of the regulator into sharp relief.  There is a major conflict between what the role of the GOsC is, and what the GTS would like to it be.  They won’t accept that this is an advertising issue.  They would like the GOsC to police our actual techniques.  The GOsC have even referred this up to the PSA so they can be objectively scrutinized by an outside regulator so it can be seen that they are proceeding correctly.

Other complaints

Complaints not generated by by the GTS were fewer, and were categorized as:

  • 5 relating to treatment
  • 5  to general conduct, which included patient modesty and dignity and/or transgressing sexual boundaries
  • 3 to failure to have in place professional indemnity insurance
  • 3 to advertising, conviction and dishonesty

There is going to be more research into the issue of sexual boundaries, as there have been a few more complaints about that sort of thing.  As ever with such statistics, it’s unclear if it’s happening more, or if we are in a post-Savile era in which people are far more likely to report such things.

Online registration

is running at 70%.  Maybe the others also  don’t use computers, but if you do, please renew online.  Quicker and cheaper for everyone.

The GOsC might become a charity

Becoming a charity is financially advantageous in several ways.  Samantha from the General Optical Council dropped in to explain how their move to charitable status had gone.  There was a more frugal culture in charities, she said, (bit strange what with the lower business rates, all that VAT relief and no corporation tax).  However her (self-confessedly extreme) example of ascetism was that you could not throw away a  keyboard if just one letter had rubbed off, so I don’t think they will be re-using teabags just yet.  They will have to be a bit more careful about the whys and wherefores of how much money they hold in cash reserves.

8% of osteopaths registered with the GOsC are working in other countries

You might have thought, like me, that now our register has topped 5000, this means there are 5000 osteopaths working in the UK.  But no.  437 people are members of the GOsC, but don’t practise in the UK.  Why?  Well, I think we are all mystified by people who wish to voluntarily pay an annual sub, especially when they have a regulator in their own country.  Tim speculated (with a laugh) that it might be out of affection for the GOsC (and then we all had a bit of a laugh).  Or they see it as a “badge of professional standing”?  Perhaps they are scared they will lose registration?  Maybe they’re not sure if they’ll be allowed back in without some tortuous process to prove themself still fit to practice.  Or considering the greatest number of these osteopaths are in France, maybe they pop back over the channel to do the odd treatment.  It’s not far.

As for foreign-trained osteopaths in our country, it was mentioned again that while they make up fewer than 1% of our register, they take up a disproportionate amount of time to process (and cost about £60k).  The Aussies and the Kiwis have a Competent Authority Pathway which is a fast track to registration for overseas osteopaths, and it might be that the GOsC could create one. It’s not just about money, either.  They don’t want people to suffer unnecessary barriers to movement.


There was a mention that the quality of NCOR has improved immeasurably since the GOsC took a step back.  This is not to say that the “dead hand of the GOsC” stopped it from flourishing, and in the spirit of both alliteration and critical analysis, could be a caution against confusing correlation with causation.


This new CPD scheme has been hailed all round as something of a triumph.  Sure I have noticed the odd Facebook detractor, but most people seem to like it, or at least accept it.  The next decisions are about when to start switching things on.

You can start doing the new CPD RIGHT NOW if you’re ultra keen.  You’d get lots of help from the GOsC.  Official wave 1 early adopters will be drawn from regional groups and CPD providers and educational institutions, plus anyone else who’s interested I think.  The early adopters will probably begin in November this year.  By next March (2017) there will be mandatory elements for everyone.  So no need to do anything just yet.  You’ve got a year to go and I’m sure there will be much  more information by then.  They are also going to develop a super duper web-based infrastructure.

Osteopathic Practice Standards

A discussion about the review of the Standards  (including things like duty of candour and advertising)  led to a really fascinating and intriguing comment from one of the lay Council members.  She wondered if, within the standards, could be embedded –  word of the moment for a start! – some kind of understanding of why people do or do not take the sort of ethical decisions required by the standards.  I felt proud to be an osteopath when Tim mentioned that the McGivern research had shown that osteopaths “don’t follow rules that they think are silly”.  Right on brothers and sisters!  But serious now, there was a tangible shift in the tone of the room, to ponder this interesting suggestion.  The Standards are a pretty sterile read, and could be viewed as unbending and hard-to-follow rules.  Maybe if they were enlivened somehow with an understanding of attitudes to authority and notions of personal responsibility,  of moral compasses and motivations for decision making,  they might actually achieve greater clarity by introducing a deeper dimension?  I honestly wasn’t sure exactly what she meant and how the Standards would look following this infusion of this understanding, personal element, but it sounded interesting.

Metaphor – not just for bodyworkers

Speaking of infusion, one great thing that the GOsC have in Tim (the CEO) is that he is an excellent talker.  That’s not a euphemism for someone who won’t shut up.  No, Tim is actually a joy to listen to, as he manages to infuse the driest of discussions  not only with a bit of humour, but also with sensational metaphors which immediately convey more than a multitude of words. It hints at a good relationship with his subconscious  and a rich imagination.  He seems to come up with these vivid and visceral descriptions effortlessly.  The “building up a head of steam”, the “dead hand of the GOsC”, all direct quotes.  There were many others that I noted but haven’t used:  “in a legal lacuna”, “Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder”, “slow burn”, “fisticuffs”, “the Steam Age”.  I found myself looking forward to spotting the next one.   Metaphor is a bit of a theme of the moment in manual therapy and persistent pain – a whole lecture was devoted to the body as metaphor on an Explain Pain course I went on recently – so it’s great to see it reflected here.

Next meeting  May 7th.  Be there or be square.  I stayed for sandwiches this time, and I can vouch for the fact that they were M and S.




One thought on “General Osteopathic Council Meeting, Feb 2016 – still talking advertising

  1. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you but I was on holiday for a week then not sure whether to publish this on the blog. I decided not to in the end, only because I quoted the other osteopath without him knowing I was going to refer to him, and didn’t feel comfortable therefore allowing personal critical comment. I’m quite new to social media and I know that controversy is the rule not the exception, but for the time being I just felt uneasy exposing him to something he wasn’t expecting. It’s a shame because I thought your comments were really insightful and useful, so please do comment again. Thanks for the encouragement – every time I wonder whether to keep blogging words like that keep me going so thanks very much and glad you’re enjoying it, Penny


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