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GOsC research

The GOsC commissions research to inform its policy development and to assess the effectiveness of its regulatory processes.


Public and patient perceptions

It is important that the public has confidence in the quality and safety of osteopathic care. Our aim is to ensure that as an organisation we understand patient and public needs, views and concerns so that we can improve our patient information and our guidance for osteopaths.

Focus groups 2014

As part of ongoing research, we explored the views of the public and patients through focus groups conducted across the UK in 2014. We are interested in perceptions of regulation, osteopathic practice and the GOsC. Our focus group events were independently facilitated by specialist researchers Community Research. You can read the resulting report on our Public and patient perceptions page.

Public perceptions surveys 2014 and 2018

We also commissioned a national survey in 2014 of public perceptions of the osteopathic profession, carried out by YouGov and the resulting reports are also available on the Public and patient perceptions page along with a commentary by the GOsC on the findings of the research.

A follow up survey by YouGov, in April 2018, questioned a nationally representative sample of 1,004 members of the public and 500 people who had seen an osteopath in the previous 12 month. The 2018 results are compared with the 2014 results. The 2018 report is also on the Public and patient perceptions page.

Patient expectations (OPEn) study

The GOsC commissioned research in 2011 into patients’ expectations of osteopathic care as part of a wider programme of work to enhance knowledge of the attitudes, needs and concerns of the public and patients who seek the care of osteopaths. The results of the research are available on the Osteopathic Patient Expectations (OPEn) study page.

Public and patient engagement in osteopathic education

There is strong evidence to demonstrate the many benefits for the student, the patient and the education provider when patients are involved in the education and training of healthcare professionals. In 2018 the GOsC committed to working with osteopathic education providers to support the further development of patient involvement in education and training.

Between 2019 and 2023, the GOsC undertook a thematic review to explore the roles patients play in pre-registration osteopathic education in the UK and to what extent patients may further contribute to osteopathic education. The review presents a number of findings and recommendations.


Creating and maintaining effective boundaries between healthcare practitioner and patient is essential to good clinical practice and is an inherent part of professionalism in healthcare. We commissioned a report about boundaries education and training in UK osteopathic educational providers, which was published in July 2017. We then commissioned a literature review on communication of touch within the context of manual therapy, published in 2019. For more information see our Boundaries page.

Effective regulation

Osteopaths in the UK practise primarily in the independent sector, usually without teams and employers. In this context, the GOsC seeks to understand the most effective ways for a regulator to influence practice in accordance with standards, maintain and enhance the quality of care and patient safety, and provide assurance of continuing fitness to practise.

A collaborative study – Exploring and explaining the dynamics of osteopathic regulation, professionalism and compliance with standards in practice – published in February 2015, will help the GOsC identify the regulatory activities that are most effective in ensuring patient safety and enhancing the quality of care.

In 2020, Professor Gerry McGivern and colleagues undertook some follow up work with the Osteopathic Regulation Survey 2020 which aimed to build on these findings. This new piece of research used a mixture of questions from the original research plus some additional questions designed to develop understanding around compliance with regulation and the embedding and embodying of the Osteopathic Practice Standards. The findings demonstrated the impact of our regulatory activities over the past five years and have informed our communications strategy and approach for 2021 to 2024. Further discussion is anticipated later in 2021 through dissemination workshops and discussion groups. Further detail can be found on page 8 in the final issue of The Osteopath magazine, published in February 2021.

Common classification of complaints and concerns

The GOsC, the Institute of Osteopathy and the providers of osteopathic indemnity insurance have been undertaking a collaborative data collection initiative since 2013, with the aim of better understanding the nature and frequency of concerns raised about osteopaths and osteopathic services.

The participating organisations have developed a common system for classifying concerns, and apply this classification routinely in their case management. The organisations’ aggregate figures are pooled annually and independently analysed by the National Council for Osteopathic Research.

Data collected under this initiative are being used to inform osteopathic education and training, and to shape targeted information and guidance for osteopaths, patients and educators. You can read the latest report here.

Understanding how osteopaths practise

To produce a snapshot of current osteopathic practice, KPMG surveyed a stratified sample of  UK osteopaths in 2011 for the GOsC, achieving a 28% response rate. You can read KPMG’s report How do osteopaths practise? here.

Standardised data collection project

A project to develop and pilot a research tool that would enable osteopaths to collect, share and compare patient data, funded by the GOsC and led by the National Council for Osteopathic Research between 2008-2010, helped to profile current osteopathic practice in the UK. You can read the final report here.

Osteopathy students’ preparedness to practise

As part of our statutory duty to promote high standards of education, in 2011 we commissioned a research project to help us understand how prepared graduates of osteopathy training courses are for practice. Our aim was to find out whether further support is required to help osteopaths make the transition from student to practitioner in order to ensure that patients continually receive a high standard of care.

The research was carried out by Professor Della Freeth and a team from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, who have experience of doing similar work for other healthcare professions. The final report was published in August 2012.

Adverse events

It is a patient’s right to be made as fully aware as possible of any known risks associated with a healthcare intervention, before consenting to treatment. To gain a better understanding of any potential risk that may be associated with osteopathic care, four interlinked research projects were funded by the GOsC. The resulting reports, published between 2009 and 2013, are available on the Adverse events studies page.


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