First things first. It had been a lively time in politics since the previous meeting, and I approached Tower Bridge Road prepared for anything. But despite the toppling of leaders, the discombobulation of the political landscape, the intrigue, the treachery, the kitten heels, the venomous, hilarious twitterfest, the sheer unstoppable, unadulterated drama on the news channels, things were reassuringly the same at Osteopathy House. Brexit has been decided upon, things are falling apart, but the GOsC seems to be holding its centre admirably.
What Brexit means for osteopaths
Well, who knows? What does Brexit mean for anyone? I imagine in meeting rooms across the land, chairs, just like Alison White, are acknowledging that there will be future, but unknown, effects of this seismic shift, but currently the business of government seems to have been switched off and on again, and we’re just waiting to see what happens next. Change is a-coming, but what will change for osteopaths? Will it involve merely crossing out all official GOsC paragraphs containing the word Europe, marking them “no longer relevant” with a thick red pen? Will the ESO be deported? Will the economy be so ruined that we will soon be bartering our treatments in return for homegrown vegetables and kindling wood? What about collaborations dear to my heart, like CauseHealth which is based in Norway and Nottingham? Oh, wait a moment, Norway’s not even in the EU, is it? While we tentatively wait for this all to become clear, Alison advised that Council should “establish its own momentum”. For a confused moment I thought she had proposed that osteopathy throws up its own modern-day Robespierre, who tours the country galvanizing associates in a grassroots, populist fervour and demanding liberty, equality and fraternity for all osteopaths! But no, she means the Council should “follow the clear course already laid out, make demonstrable progress forwards”, and not be knocked sideways by the decline and fall of the European Empire (definitely not her words). Sorry about the mixed historical metaphors.
The Council is keeping calm and carrying on.
The Council is continuing to make practical steps towards the application for charitable status.
There was the first meeting of the new Policy Advisory Committee, which has introduced more diverse input by virtue of having more members with different osteopathic perspectives.
Alison White, the chair, is going to be reviewed. I think this is a regular thing.
There is no slippage on the business plan – all proceeding according to plan.
The Council is soon to embark on its most ambitious “change project” (the new CPD scheme) which has involved creating new partnerships and including more diverse perspectives, and this has created a “bedrock of success” for the GOsC to build on.
As if the solid, positive vibe couldn’t get any better, we were then informed that for the 6th successive year the GOsC received a clean report from the PSA (the people who regulate the regulators). Ours is the ONLY regulator to do this out of all the regulators, and that includes the dentists, chiros, pharmacists, nurses and midwives, and even the General Medical Council.
An additional legal assessor and panel chair for the Investigating Committee are to be appointed.
The whistle-blowing policy is a bit thin – this has come to light following the discovery that the General Dental Council had an inadequate policy when it was called for. This is really important and it might have to be improved.
Fitness to Practise
There were fewer complaints this month. I am guessing this means fewer specifically from the Good Thinking Society. I’m not sure if anyone knows why. Maybe osteopaths are complying better with the advertising regulations, and it is harder to find websites to complain about, or maybe it was just a lack of staff or time at their end and it will revert to type next month. There were 146 complaints still pending relating to advertising, but they are all risk assessed and if any have patient safety implications they are taken out and fast-tracked.
When discussing complaints, one of the most pressing things the Council seems to concern itself with is the amount of time it takes to deal with complaints. Everyone wants it to be quicker. So there is always a discussion on why cases get adjourned unheard (sometimes it’s due to ill health, or just running out of time) and they are always trying to come up with innovations to speed things up (e.g. asking the registrant to fill out a questionnaire in advance, or giving the PCC papers to read in advance). One case seems to have lasted 104 weeks but this is very rare, and was because it was a complex health case.
It seems that people involved in the Council or its committees might not be able to act as character references for registrants involved in Fitness to Practice cases any longer. There was some concern that registrants would want exactly the type of authoritative and important person who would be involved with the Council to vouch for the fact that they were, essentially, a “good egg”. It was decided, however, that there were plenty of other people available to act as witness, whose ability to discern either the good egginess or stench of sulphur emanating from the defendant, would not be called into question.
“Informal complaints” is what complaints used to be called while they were being investigated prior to referral or being dismissed. However this was confusing, and could have sounded a bit like it wasn’t an official, or serious, complaint. They will now be called “initial concerns“. These might materialize into an allegation or complaint witin 42 days.
With regard to what happens when someone phones the GOsC with an initial concern, we were told that most of those answering the calls are legally qualified and receive training. The process ENABLES the caller to raise a concern, and the Council tries not to encourage or discourage. Calls are not recorded on tape because vulnerable witnesses need privacy, and often want repeated private calls with the same one person in order to build up trust. Small message: if you are an osteopath who contacts the GOsC because you’re worried you might have done something wrong: number one – maybe have a think about that course of action first, and talk it over with someone sane, and number two – they will probably let you know if you’re about to incriminate yourself because they will be obliged to follow it up if you do.
You can’t jump before you’re pushed
Another interesting thing I learnt – if a complaint is made and you end up in the Fitness to Practice process, you can’t just ask to be removed from the register and walk away. It would be a bit like leaving the Apprentice when you sense the writing on the wall. You’ve failed miserably as the task leader, Sir Alan had already told you it was your last chance, your team all hate you and are guaranteed to stitch you up in the board room, so you announce it wasn’t really for you and you’re going to leave the process. I think I have actually seen someone do that on the Apprentice, but it won’t wash with the GOsC. No, you have to endure the whole, hideous FtoP process, even though the ultimate sanction you face seems to be removal from the register, the very thing you offered to do! Well, there’s a method in the madness. If you voluntarily left, you would be subverting the process, leaving you able to carry on practising as before, albeit without the title osteopath, and so would escape any kind of consequence from your mistake, save the gnawing pain of your conscience, depending on how developed your conscience might be. Even if you wanted to give up practice in these circumstances, it is unlikely you can stop the process being played out.
I also think if you are removed from the register you can reapply after ten months, but the PCC (Professional Conduct Commitee) make the decision, acting as the registrar, so it’s highly unlikely you’d sneak back in unsanctioned and undetected.
Finances are healthy
The GOsC have a few investments, and their number one priority I’m pleased to say is to preserve their capital, which they have. They’ve even increased it at the moment and it has survived Brexit so far. I think it’s a sizeable sum of about half a million pounds, but I could be wrong. They are thinking of transferring to a different manager, so they get a bit more interaction and advice.
Osteopathic Practice Standards
Over 330 people commented on the standards for the review – a good level of engagement, I’d say.
New CPD scheme – not long now
The CPD scheme is to begin in September, and 90-100 osteopaths will be “early adopters”. These osteopaths are clearly at the other end of the spectrum from “active resisters”. There are presumed to be a few of those too. £100 000 or thereabouts has been budgeted for the implementation, and there might be an electronic portfolio system which would make everything quite easy.
GOsC pay NCOR £26 500 a year, and are one of 4 main funding sources. Everyone in regulation, NCOR and iO are keen to get osteopaths using PROMS and PILARs and in one fell swoop get our profession more evidence-based, self-aware, supportive and credible, but osteopaths are being true to their apathetic stereotype. Although PILARs is good when you go on it, and PROMS is yielding really valuable information, these projects are being classed as “slow burners”. I guess if osteopaths find PROMS is a way to get their “objective activity” points in the new CPD system it will take off.
Dawn Carnes now seems to be working at an osteopathic research dept in Switzerland. Will she have to come back, post-Brexit? Oh, wait a minute, Switzerland’s not even in the EU is it?
The osteopathy schools at Oxford Brookes and Leeds Metropolitan are closing. I don’t think we can blame Brexit. However, adieu and au revoir…
So there we are. Hope you feel up to date and in the loop now, you’re always welcome to join me in observers’ corner if you want to hear it first hand. And remember, my account is what I’d call “impressionistic” – i.e. neither reliable nor validated.
Cheerio for now, and thanks for reading.
Right into Summer mode now, so prepare for mini-blogs.