Learning from complaints and concerns latest report

NCOR has published its report for 2013-15 on complaints and concerns raised about osteopaths.  It is well worth reading to gain an understanding of weak areas in the profession and to learn from others to maintain safety and confidence in your practice.

Complaints and concerns rose to 369 in 2015, a significant increase from the 257 in 2014.  This was fuelled by the increase in advertising complaints which were 156, compared to 9 in 2014.  As usual concerns are almost half and half between conduct and clinical care.  If we disregard the advertising complaints, there has actually been a decrease in complaints and concerns in 2015 which is encouraging.  GOsC, IO and educational institutions have been working together to target areas of weakness and improve education and awareness in these areas.

To keep this in context it is about 7% of osteopaths who have been the subject of a complaint or concern in 2015, for around 3% of osteopaths this was related to advertising.


Highest concerns about osteopath’s conduct were ‘Failure to communicate effectively’ 17% and ‘Communicating inappropriately’ 12%.

‘Failure to obtain valid consent’ is decreasing – 8% in 2015 – we’re learning.  Slight increase though for sexual impropriety 14% and failure to protect patient’s dignity and modesty 11%.  There was an increase in the failure to maintain professional indemnity insurance 6%.

Clinical Care

The top five categories in 2015 are as follows:

39% ‘Treatment causes new or increased pain or injury’

17% ‘Inappropriate treatment or treatment not justified’

10% ‘Treatment administered incompetently’

8% ‘Forceful treatment’

6% ‘Providing advice, treatment or care that is beyond the competence of the osteopath’


A direct quote from the report:

“Public concern about the quality of practice advertising represents a serious challenge that must be addressed with urgency by the osteopathic profession. Osteopaths, in common with other health professionals, are expected to ensure their advertising complies with the requirements of the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Code of Advertising Practice.” P.10,11

Improving practice

The NCOR report highlights these areas where improvement in practice could be focussed:

Communicating with patients professionally about the treatment they receive and why

Managing patient expectations

Consenting process

Maintaining appropriate professional boundaries

Ethical advertising

Competent technique application

Sound clinical judgement

Lessons for the future

As is reflected in the new CPD scheme, a key area for continued learning is Communication and Consent.  It will be compulsory to include this in your 3 year CPD cycle under the new scheme.  The majority of the clinical care and consent complaints appear to relate to communication skills.  We need to keep working on making sure patients are informed and share in decision making at all stages of their treatment course.  Whilst it is encouraging that obtaining consent is improving there is no place for complacency, we need to continue improving.

With regard to advertising we need to keep working together to make sure all our advertising is compliant with the advertising standards agency.  We also need to support NCOR in their data collection projects as they seek to collect evidence to enable us to broaden the range of conditions that can be advertised.

We should be greatly encouraged that osteopathy is a safe profession, complaints and concerns are relatively low.  NCOR is a fantastic asset working to produce data and evidence far beyond anything available to other professions.

As you read through the report or just the points emphasised above consider whether there are any areas of your practice that could be improved.  Take action now so that together we can keep reducing complaints and making osteopath a profession renowned for its high standards.


Carnes, D. (2016) NCOR Types of concerns raised about osteopaths and osteopathic services in 2013 to 2015, available at: http://www.osteopathy.org.uk/news-and-resources/document-library/research-and-surveys/types-of-concerns-raised-about-osteopaths-and-services/

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