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Our complaints process

When we receive a complaint it is considered carefully, with reference to our guidance on threshold criteria for unacceptable professional conduct, to see whether it is a complaint we can investigate.

If so, it goes to the Investigating Committee, which will look at the evidence and decide whether there is enough evidence to take the complaint forward to a hearing by the Professional Conduct Committee.

Form completion

Screening a complaint

When we receive a completed complaints form, an independent osteopath (known as a 'screener') will study your complaint to make sure it is something we can deal with. We aim to have cases screened within three weeks of receiving the complaint and will contact you if we need to check any details. The screener is assisted in this by our Guidance for Screeners.

The screener will not reject your complaint without talking to a lay member (someone who is not an osteopath) of the General Osteopathic Council.

To assist screeners, and to help complainants and osteopaths to understand the sorts of complaints that we can deal with, we have guidance setting out ‘threshold criteria’ for unacceptable professional conduct. The guidance lists some types of complaints that should generally be rejected because they would not normally amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

If we can't deal with your complaint

If we find that we can't deal with your complaint, we will contact you and tell you why. It may be that your allegations do not amount to a breach of professional standards, because they are not relevant to the work of the osteopath, or because there is unlikely to be sufficient evidence to support the complaint.

Investigating a complaint

Once we agree to investigate a complaint, we usually contact the osteopath you have complained about, send them the details of your complaint and ask for a response. We might need to ask for information from other people as part of the investigation. For example, if your complaint relates to your medical condition we might need to look at copies of your medical records from other practitioners, such as your doctor.

Then we ask our Investigating Committee to look at all the information that has been collected. Our aim is for the Investigating Committee to do this within four months of your complaint being received. This committee is made up of osteopaths and lay members (non-osteopaths) and chaired by a lay person. They may ask for more information from you, the osteopath or other people, such as your doctor.

The committee will decide whether all the information collected supports your complaint and whether the allegations would amount to any of the following:

  • unacceptable professional conduct
  • professional incompetence
  • a criminal conviction in the UK that is relevant to the work of the osteopath
  • a medical condition that seriously affects the osteopath’s ability to practise.

If the Investigating Committee believes that the complaint does not indicate any of these, they will find that there is no case to answer and your complaint won’t be looked at any more. We will tell you why the committee made this decision. But if the committee finds that there is a case to answer, we will arrange a public hearing and instruct our solicitors to prepare the case against the osteopath.

The Investigating Committee is assisted in determining whether there is a case for the osteopath to answer by the Investigating Committee Decision-making Guidance and accompanying flowchart, and the guidance on threshold criteria for unacceptable professional conduct.

Interim suspension orders

The Investigating, Professional Conduct or Health Committees may decide to suspend an osteopath's registration (impose an interim suspension order) if it is considered necessary in order to protect patients and members of the public during an investigation. Guidance on Imposing Interim Suspension Orders is used by the fitness to practise committees, when considering whether to impose an interim suspension order. The Professional Conduct Committee and Health Committee can also decide to impose an interim suspension order pending an appeal against a decision.

Concluding a case without a hearing (Rule 8)

In certain circumstances, cases that the Investigating Committee has referred to the Professional Conduct Committee may be concluded without a hearing. The procedure for dealing with these types of case is set out in Rule 8 of the General Osteopathic Council (Professional Conduct Committee) (Procedure) Rules. The Professional Conduct Committee will only consider using this procedure if the case meets certain criteria, and if the Committee thinks that the sanction of admonishment would be appropriate.

Before deciding whether or not to use the procedure, the PCC will consider the views of the complainant and the registrant. The registrant must agree that the case can be considered without a hearing, and must be prepared to fully admit the facts and the allegations against him or her. The determination of the Committee will be published on the GOsC website in the usual way.

For further information about this and about the criteria for disposing of a case under Rule 8, and the procedures involved, see Disposal of Proceedings using the Procedure set out in Rule 8 of the General Osteopathic Council (Professional Conduct Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2000 – PCC Practice Note and the guidance for registrants. There is also a flowchart to illustrate the steps involved in the procedure.

Hearings

Professional Conduct Committee

If the complaint concerns an osteopath's professional conduct or competence, or a criminal conviction that is relevant to his/her work, it will be heard by the Professional Conduct Committee. Our aim is to hold the hearing within nine months of it being referred by the Investigating Committee. See the Hearings section for more information about hearings and what happens after a hearing.

Health Committee

Complaints about an osteopath's mental or physical health are passed to the Health Committee, which is made up of osteopaths and non-osteopaths and at least one registered medical practitioner. This committee can look at cases without having a hearing. It meets in private because it has to consider an osteopath’s medical condition.

If there are serious worries about the osteopath’s health, the committee may require the osteopath to meet certain conditions. There is Guidance for the Health Committee on Formulating Conditions of Practice Orders to assist the committee if it decides to impose Conditions of Practice. The committee can also stop the osteopath from working for a set time by suspending their registration.

Osteopaths: if a complaint is made against you

There is further information on the o zone for osteopaths explaining what happens when we receive a complaint and what osteopaths with a complaint against them need to do at each stage.