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COVID-19: Using professional judgement

22 May 2020

The GOsC reminds osteopaths of the importance of following infection control guidance and using professional judgement when considering treating patients

For those osteopaths seeing patients face-to-face, or considering a return to practising, it is important to refresh their familiarity with the infection control guidance which we have issued in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our latest statement on osteopathic practice (which was updated on 12 May), we recognise that there is no prohibition on osteopathic practice. This means that osteopaths, as healthcare professionals, should exercise their own professional judgement about practising, taking into consideration all of the available evidence and guidance.

Fiona Browne, GOsC’s Director of Education, Standards and Development, has provided an overview of the latest Infection control guidance and the use of professional judgement.

Fiona outlines that osteopaths should be able to explain their decisions and actions and the exercise of their professional judgement, informed by:

  • Discussions with the patient
  • Their own knowledge and experience
  • Advice of peers and colleagues
  • Government and other relevant guidance
  • Guidance from GOsC as your regulator

Osteopaths should also be aware of updated guidance to inform their professional judgement. This could be relating to:

  • Country-specific guidance about social/physical distancing
  • Shielding patients
  • Country-specific clinical guidance
  • UK infection control guidance
  • Patients with coronavirus symptoms
  • Other patients (including vulnerable and shielded patients)

In relation to the exercise of professional judgement, the Osteopathic Practice Standards (OPS) provide that: ‘The standards set out the expectations of osteopaths as regulated healthcare professionals. Patients must be able to trust osteopaths with their health. To justify that trust osteopaths must meet the standards expected in the Osteopathic Practice Standards. Osteopaths are personally accountable for their professional practice and must always be prepared to justify their decisions and actions, explaining how they have exercised their professional judgement.’

The benefits and risks of any proposed intervention, which will now include not just the risks of the osteopathic intervention but those of catching or passing on COVID-19, will need to be considered in relation to each patient on a case-by-case basis and discussed fully and openly to ensure shared and fully informed decision-making. This will need to be reflected, also, in the gaining of consent, and the recording of this in accordance with standard A4 of the OPS. You would need to be able to create a strong narrative that reflected the actions you had taken and the options you had considered in coming to the conclusion about the appropriateness of seeing a particular patient face-to-face.

Whilst addressing osteopaths in his update on Tuesday 19 May, Maurice Cheng, CEO of the professional membership body, the Institute of Osteopathy (iO), explained: ‘This is not a return to ‘business as usual’ in any part of the UK, as the risks of infection remain very real, and are likely to remain with us for some time.

We will need to adapt our practice to take account of these risks. These risks will need to be assessed and managed to ensure that the public, and those working within your practice, are confident that their safety is of paramount concern.

Only once you have undertaken a risk assessment and ensured effective infection prevention and control measures in your practice, should you consider undertaking face-to-face consultations.’

The iO has also published further guidance on infection risk assessment and mitigation.

Watch Fiona Browne, GOsC’s Director of Education, Standards and Development, providing an overview of the Infection control guidance and use of professional judgement: