The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) was established to protect the public and is responsible for the regulation, promotion and development of the osteopathic profession in the UK.

Whilst we recognise the importance of facilitating service provision across the EU, what sets osteopathy apart is that there are no formalised common standards of osteopathic training and practice across the European Union (EU). As one of two competent authorities for osteopathy in the EU, we have a number of concerns about aspects of this draft Directive which could jeopardise patient safety.

The GOsC’s comments are set out below in response to those questions relevant to GOsC functions.

Scope of the Directive

We welcome the objective of this Directive, but would press the European Commission to amend some aspects of the proposal, to ensure we are able to fulfill our role in protecting the public.

Single point of contact

Whilst a single point of contact providing information to service providers has merit, the proposal goes beyond this to encompass the completion of all procedures required to carry out service activities, such as liaison with the competent authority. This goes further than the draft Directive on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications, and may in fact complicate rather than simplify administrative procedures through added red tape. We would press for the European Commission to amend this proposal so its objectives of simplifying procedures and cutting bureaucracy can be met.

Authorisation

We support the fact that authorisation schemes are permitted for reasons of public interest, but does this include patient safety? As a health regulator we would automatically assume that patient safety is of public interest and thus GOsC registration procedures, for example, would meet these criteria.

We strongly disagree if a regulator fails to respond to an application within the timescale, then this would equate to the individual having met the minimum standards. We note that this does provide for different arrangements in the public interest and we consider it essential to make it clear that this includes public safety and health. Deemed registration does not protect the public and only serves to undermine our regulatory role.

Country of Origin principle

We fully support what we consider to be derogation for professions with implications for public health and safety from the country of origin principle. If this was not the case, we believe this would have serious implications on patient safety, particularly in the light of the lack of regulation framework for the osteopathic profession across the EU.

In order to emphasise the importance of this exemption, in the case of a complaint against a practitioner from outside the UK, the GOsC would be powerless to take action against him/her. But what if osteopathy is not regulated in his/her country of origin - who/what is the competent authority to take action?

Mutual assistance

Whilst we fully support the principle of mutual assistance, in the case of the GOsC - apart from the Finnish Ministry of Health - there are no competent authorities to ‘mutually assist’ or receive assistance from. We believe this is a potential risk for patients, which is why we are looking to establish an alliance of osteopathic regulators as a strategic priority. We would welcome any support from the European Commission and the European Public Health Alliance in pressing Member State governments to regulate osteopathy. We also hope that the European Commission will assist in identifying those competent authorities in relation to osteopathy in the rest of the EU.

European-level Codes of Conduct

We encourage the development of voluntary European standards including Codes of Conduct at European level; however, as mentioned above, there are currently no formalised common standards in training and practice of osteopathy across the EU, so we cannot underestimate the difficulties involved in this. These barriers are not only linguistic and cultural, but also legal as the autonomy and scope of osteopathic practice can differ between Member States.

In the same way the latest text of the draft Directive on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications stipulates the inclusion of regulatory bodies in the establishment of common platforms, all regulatory bodies should be involved in the development of these codes, along with professional associations and patient groups.

We would welcome assistance from the European Commission to encourage the regulation of osteopathy across the European Union and to help identify those designated bodies with which we can build links.

EPHA membership

As a recent member of the European Public Health Alliance, we welcome this opportunity to set out the GOsC’s position on this proposed Directive. We are keen to build a positive dialogue with our European partners and would be interested in hearing from other members. For further information about the GOsC, contact Sarah Eldred at sarahe@osteopathy.org.uk or visit our website at http://www.osteopathy.org.uk.

Last modified on February 21 2005.