All osteopaths practicing in the UK are primary health professionals and undergo years of rigorous training.
Osteopathic undergraduates are required to follow a four or five year degree course, during which time they will study the core medical subjects of anatomy, physiology, neurology and pathology, as well as certain specialist areas such as biomechanics and osteopathic technique.
They are required to gain extensive clinical experience and undergo a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical training as part of their undergraduate studies.
Qualifications generally take the form of a Bachelor’s degree in osteopathy – a BSc(Hons), BOst or BOstMed – or a Masters degree in osteopathy (MOst).
Once qualified, osteopaths are required to complete 30 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) per year and many also choose to further their academic and clinical studies with courses such as specialist Masters degrees and PhDs.
The title ‘osteopath’ is protected by law and anyone who uses the name osteopath must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), as established by the Osteopaths Act 1993.
The GOsC is the statutory regulator (equivalent to the medical profession’s GMC) and is responsible for promoting high standards of competency, conduct and safety within the profession.
Although most osteopaths worth within private practice there are ever-increasing numbers of them working within the NHS – in hospitals and GP practices.
Osteopathy is fully recognised by the medical profession and osteopathic treatment is specifically recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of low back pain.
Although osteopaths will often treat patients that have been referred to them by a GP, there is no requirement for a patient to seek a GP referral. Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners, meaning they are qualified to treat patients without any need for prior referral.
Osteopaths are fully qualified to assess whether a patient should or should not be treated. On occasion, with the patient’s consent, the osteopath may need to liaise with the patient’s GP, or other medical specialists, if it is deemed that a condition requires further investigation.
For further information, visit www.osteopathy.org which is the website of the osteopathic regulatory body, the General Osteopathic Council.