The General Osteopathic Council has commissioned a review of its 2017 Thematic Analysis of Boundaries Education and Training within the UK’s osteopathic education providers.

This updated review will look at the topic of professional boundaries in the context of broader social trends, including the ‘Me Too’ movement, equality and diversity requirements, and how the updated Osteopathic Practice Standards (2019) impact on practice and patient expectations. It will also reflect on how the pandemic has affected osteopathy and the importance of touch.

A recent report from the National Council for Osteopathic Research revealed that in 2019 there were 17 complaints (the highest ever recorded) involving sexual impropriety. The impact of these cases is often devastating to patients, can end an osteopath’s career, and can damage trust in the whole profession.

Julie Stone, a medical ethicist by training, with a legal, academic, and policy background, has been commissioned to carry out the updated review. Julie undertook the first Thematic Analysis of Boundaries Education and Training which was published in 2017. 

The 2017 review highlighted that, while sexual boundary breaches are uncommon, wider boundary issues are a core element of professionalism, and occur for all osteopaths in their everyday practice. Our blog series on professional boundaries scenarios provides examples of how complex it can be for osteopaths to navigate these issues.

The purpose of this updated thematic review is to support the enhancement of standards, seeking information about boundaries education and providing detailed feedback across the education sector.

Julie said:

‘The 2017 review looked at what was taught and how, and what policies were in place. The forthcoming review will be broader in scope, appreciating that a holistic approach to boundaries needs to be taken.”

This wider scope might include greater emphasis on the psychological aspects of practice, how osteopathic education providers create safe, reflective spaces for students to learn about this subject, and how to foster self-care and resilience as an integral part of training and education.

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