General Osteopathic Council Meeting May 2017

It seems that every meeting these days occurs in the wake of a new political bombshell of some sort, and at the May meeting it was the surprise General Election.  I wonder if this period of history will become known as the “Age of Uncertainty”, or the “Wobbly Years”, or even the “Strange Political Times”.

The latest wobble means that the ‘reform legislation’, which was already on hold due to the situation in Northern Ireland, is now even more on hold due to the election.  The Dept Of Health wanted the legislation through before the next election, so now that probably means before 2022.  I’m not totally sure what this legislation is – some consultation on the reform of healthcare professional regulation.

Chair Alison White informed us that Sir Jeremy Heywood, who has the daunting  job title of Head of the Civil Service, which constitutes no less than half a million people, has stated that the first priority of the Service is to prepare departments for if there is no Brexit agreement on the 1st April 2019.  This hardly inspires me with hope and confidence, but there are you are.  Brace yourself for Brexit seems to be the message.

New osteopath members of the Council

There were a couple of new faces on the Council – both osteopath members.  Here are links to their biographies:

Elizabeth Elander is employed at the College of Osteopaths.

Simeon London works at the BSO and used to work at Unitec in NZ.

GOsC passes its test

The Council received a clean annual report from their regulator, the PSA,  (this seems to come round remarkably frequently – no wonder the Council want us to self-evaluate and self-scrutinize – they seem to spend a lot of their time doing just that themselves).  The GOsC is the only regulator who has achieved a clean report every year for the last seven, so we can confidently assume they are quite good at what they do.


Matthew Redford and Kevin Morgan:  Matthew’s been cheerfully accepting your subs for 16 and a half years and is Head of Regulation.  Kevin is the new Regulation Manager and was at the General Dental Council before.


Income and expenditure are both up a bit this year.  There will be a small surplus at the end of the year.  Fitness to Practise came in under budget; staff costs came in over budget; the reserves haven’t had to be raided quite as heavily as expected to pay for the new CPD scheme, and are at the level of about 2.5 million pounds.  Things have gone according to the business plan.  Everyone was pretty pleased with this.  Of 26 pages of commitments, 99.9% were delivered.  4 smallish items have had to be carried forward, apparently.

The Charity Commission

The charity commission has registered the GOsC as a charity.  Now, this has coincided with some sort of campaign in which anti-CAM types are challenging the charitable status of some CAM organizations.  I had seen something about this circulated by Simon Singh on Twitter, wondered who was behind it, and it turns out it’s him again!  His GTS organization have actually threatened the charities commission with a judicial review, (their words not mine), which is why they are holding this consultation. However, the relevant  document is more about organizations which are trying to promote things proven not to have a public benefit – things that are unregulated or not in wide acceptance or use, and various other criteria which mean that the GOsC is probably not in their scope.  (It doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep working at showing evidence for the benefit that we do.)  The charities commission sounds fairly level-headed and sensible, and have stated that

Our consultation is not about whether complementary and alternative therapies and medicines are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but about what level of evidence we should require when making assessments about an organisation’s charitable status. This is an area of considerable debate, and it is important that we consult openly

You can see the document  here.  I’m afraid it’s too late to have your say.  The consultation closed 19th May.


There have been fewer complaints, mostly as the advertising ones have died down.  There have also been more that have no case to answer at the first committee stage.  The complaints team are on a constant quest for self-improvement, and itemized a number of learning points, one of which included how to deal with increasingly “stroppy counsel” acting on behalf of the registrants – they didn’t put it exactly like this, but almost.  The chairs of the committees are also going to have some extra training.

The advertising campaign might be on a strategic break,  but Simon Singh and the GTS still have the “bit between their teeth”.  This drive is curiouser and curiouser to me.  Where is it heading?  With dawn raids for Epsom salts and burning at the stake for anyone who refuses to acknowledge the randomised controlled trial as the one and only true authority by which we live?

A couple of new booklets have been printed to help osteopaths in the Fitness to practise process. More work and thought goes into these than I had realised.  At least now, if you do have a complaint made against you, you have a handy little guide to try to help you navigate your way through it.  The leaflet I saw looked really good.   Hundreds of osteopaths viewed it in draft state, and some made responses.  N.B. If you do send  feedback in some form to the GOsC, goodness me it gets taken very seriously and you are quite likely to end up being quoted in print in some document.  This isn’t a green light to rant and rave at them – they can spot someone “venting” – but they will still give your response plenty of consideration.

Rule 8:  Besides voluntary removal, another way to avoid a hideously protracted ride through the Professional Conduct Committee, is effectively to ‘plead guilty’ – my words, not theirs.  As long as the complaining person is consulted and engaged about this, and as long as the osteopath admits all the facts set out in the complaint, and as long as the outcome is that it should be dealt with by admonishment, the case can be disposed of without a hearing.  I think this had always been possible, but underused, and an extremely long set of rules and conditions do apply.  Clearly if you don’t feel a complaint has any substance this would probably not be a route you would take, but if you have done something wrong and know you have, and neither you nor the complaining patient wants their day in court, rule 8 could be for you.


Tim Walker, the politically well-connected CEO  of the GOsC

New osteopathy course at University of St Mark and St John (aka Plymouth Marjon)

Despite two osteopathy courses closing down, a new one is starting up.  There was a touch of consternation expressed by osteopaths on the Council that it is being led by a physiotherapist (Dr Gary Shum), however the curriculum is devised by osteopaths, the course will be scrutinized from the outset, with extensive conditions for the first three years, and 35% of the clinical experience will be in external clinics.

Osteopathy is a female-dominated profession

Well, only slightly.  Of 5,204 osteopaths on the register, 50.69% are female.

Another interesting statistic

20% of CPD annual summaries are audited

2% of actual CPD record folders are audited

Specialising/Advanced Clinical Practice

The ODG are still working on how to recognize advanced clinical practice.  Apparently ‘advanced’ is very different from ‘specialized’, and is very difficult to define.   As an aside, in Australia, no osteopath is allowed to describe themselves as a specialist in any way.

The priority seems to be paediatric practice, and this is an issue in other countries too.  In NZ every single osteopath is going to need to upgrade their paediatric skill over the next three years.  The issues are not so much about techniques but general child health competency i.e.  child development and protection, safeguarding issues, consent and red flags and so on.  One thing everyone seems agreed on is that this is “an important and sensitive issue” (the Chair) and we need to ensure good paediatric practice.

There is a lot of debate around treating children, both within and without the profession, and how to ensure good practice in this area, but not much debate amongst our patients and their parents, who seem remarkably happy.  It is vanishingly rare for the GOsC to receive complaints about paediatric practice, even though 20 -30% of osteopaths treat children.

So on that positive note, I’ll give you the date of the next meeting which is Tuesday 18 July … and also let you in on a hot tip from Maurice Cheng who recommends the Policy Advisory Committee for some really good discussion. If you thought the Council meetings were good, apparently you’ve seen nothing yet..  The PAC is also open to the public and is on 8 June…..election day….happy voting everybody.


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