The independent NCOR report collates concerns and complaints data from the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), the professional membership body the Institute of Osteopathy (iO) and three insurers of osteopaths. The report is unique to the osteopathic profession and provides valuable feedback for osteopaths, students and educational providers.

Key findings from this year’s data, which was collected during January to December 2021, are set out below.

Reduced number of concerns overall

There were 150 concerns and complaints raised in 2021 down from the 8-year mean of 254 (this includes figures for false/misleading advertising complaints). This was the second lowest number of complaints since the NCOR report was first published. However, it is important to take into account that the COVID-19 pandemic had had an impact on both the number and nature of concerns and complaints raised in 2020, and although most osteopaths were back to practising at levels more similar to those before the pandemic, in 2021 concerns and complaints figures did not return to pre-pandemic levels.

No concerns raised about consent

Perhaps reflecting increased awareness and a deeper understanding of consent as a result of the new Continuing Professional Development scheme (launched October 2018), no concerns were raised about consent in 2021. However, slightly more than average concerns were raised about communicating inappropriately.

Professional boundaries concerns remain significant

The number of concerns and complaints around sexual impropriety remained consistent with previous reporting periods rather than falling proportionately with the overall reduction in concerns and complaints as might have been expected. This continues to be a key area of focus for the GOsC.

Two dominant themes

Theme D: Professionalism, and Theme C: Safety and quality in practice were the dominant themes of the Osteopathic Practice Standards (OPS) in relation to concerns raised. This included an increase in complaints about ‘conduct bringing the profession into disrepute’ such as around the use of social media during the pandemic.

GOsC Chief Executive and Registrar, Matthew Redford, said:

‘We welcome this year’s NCOR report as the data evaluated gives us a unique insight into the care delivered by osteopaths. It is reassuring to see that the overall number of concerns and complaints are low, as are the numbers of osteopaths who have concerns and complaints raised about them.

‘However, in relation to the occurrence of complaints of sexual impropriety and around issues of professional boundaries, we know these can be so damaging to patients. Therefore we are maintaining our focus on this area of work building on our recent commissioning of medical ethicist Julie Stone’s independent thematic review Supporting Professionals, Protecting Patients and our own boundaries scenarios which were disseminated to the profession.

‘We also recognise that there is room for improvement in relation to both the Safety and Quality and Professionalism themes, and we encourage every osteopath to consider the report and its findings to ensure there is a focus on practice in accordance with the OPS.’

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