23 July 2011

The River - a moral tale - and regulation of osteopaths

A person is walking by a river when he sees someone drowning. He jumps in pulls them to the bank and gives the kiss of life. Then he notices someone else drowning so he jumps back in, rescues them, pulls them to the bank and so on. By now one or two other people have gathered on the bank and are watching as someone else comes sweeping down the river and is saved by the Person. This process continues until there are quite a few wet people recovering on the bank and a lot of bystanders watching.

Someone else comes down the river drowning. This time the Person turns and walks away upriver. One of the bystanders shouts "Where are you off to ? Aren’t you going to save that one too ?" The Person turns and says "No you can save that one. I’m going to find out who’s pushing them in." Sometime later the person returns downriver. Now there are many more people gathered on the river bank and many more people in the river sweeping past drowning. But the ones on the riverbank are not doing much lifesaving. Instead they have broken up into small groups, many of which are fighting each other or fighting amongst themselves. Quite a few people have bloody noses, there are black eyes and loose teeth are scattered here and there on the ground. The people are fighting about which are the best techniques for lifesaving; whether it is ethical to save lives and if so in what circumstances; whether only certain specially qualified people should be allowed to save lives; what should be done to prevent unqualified people from saving lives; the problems of the possible abuse of the drowning person; the structure of the committees that are needed to look into all the above issues; whether lifesavers have a sufficiently strong theoretical knowledge of the principles of lifesaving; whether only graduates should be allowed to save lives; whether anyone should be allowed to save a life until they have proved themselves competent at putting on their swimming trunks on at least two separate occasions; whether the best way to save lives is to review the literature and write a thesis and a few other important issues.

One group has named itself the British Lifesaving Association and feels that only lifesavers accredited by itself should be allowed to enter the water; it has set up an ingenious accreditation system based on the lifesaving techniques that the practitioner has studied but unfortunately it has forgotten to include any test of whether the practitioner can actually swim. Another group has named itself the Association of Complementary Lifesaving Practitioners; it is more forward thinking and includes in the accreditation process the consideration of whether real swimming can be undertaken but alas only on paper; no one knows whether its practitioners will actually sink or not when thrown in the water. Occasionally somebody jumps into the water and pulls someone who is drowning to the bank. There are mutterings of resentment and criticism from the onlookers. Meanwhile lots of people drown. No one wants to listen to what the Person has learnt upriver.

This was a popular story twenty years ago when osteopathy consisted of seven or more groups, each of whom believed that they were the best and looked slightly askance at the others. Then some of the smaller groups merged and there was a gradual realisation that our similarities were greater than our differences and the exclusive became the inclusive, culminating in the eventual unification of the profession. The Osteopaths Act was passed by parliament in 1993 followed by the opening of the register in 1998.

To get onto the register every osteopath had to submit a detailed "professional personal portfolio" and for many it was a painful and angst-ridden process. Some osteopaths opted for retirement, others gave up the title "osteopath" which was now a protected title, and became osteomyologists or orthopodists or manipulative therapists, but the majority complied with the rules of the new regulator and believed that they were bringing in the golden age of osteopathy.

Fast forward twelve years and there is an emerging feeling amongst osteopaths that the regulator has served its purpose, achieved its original goals and is now clinging on too tightly, indeed stifling the very profession that it once nurtured. This document http://bostforum.org.uk/media/Report_Blog.pdf written by Jason Cook is quite long, but for anyone with the patience to read it, it will give you a stark diagnosis of the current tension building between working osteopaths and their regulators.

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Blog Author

My name is Bill Ferguson and I am an Osteopath and Acupuncturist. I run a private practice in Tenterden, Kent.

Bill Ferguson, Osteopath and Acupuncturist
Bill Ferguson
Osteopathy Clinic
Tel: 01580 762754

I am registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), the regulatory body for osteopathy and I have been helping people in pain for over 20 years.

For further information about my osteopathy practice see my website www.billferguson.co.uk where you will find more information about me.