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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.

Building on previous work, including the osteopathic patient expectations study, we devised and conducted a two-phase programme of public perceptions research comprising both qualitative and quantitative methods, the key aims of which were to explore and ascertain:

  • perceptions and expectations of the profession and levels of knowledge of and trust in osteopathy
  • information needs and what information might be sought by those becoming a patient of an osteopath
  • expectations of the experience of being a patient of an osteopath
  • relative perceptions of professionalism and quality of care as compared to other healthcare providers
  • levels of awareness of regulation of osteopathy (particularly around protection from harm) and the response to the existence of the GOsC and the GOsC’s role.

Focus groups February and June 2014

The first phase involved a number of focus groups in the first half of 2014 attended by osteopathic patients, and members of the public with no prior experience of osteopathy. Participants in the focus groups were aged 18-80 and represented a range of backgrounds. These events were facilitated by independent research company Community Research.

As these views are those of a limited number of people only, we wanted to test them in a more extensive patient and public survey. 

National public surveys into public perceptions of the osteopathic profession

The second phase was a national public survey conducted by YouGov at the end of 2014 with a nationally representative sample of 1,566 members of the UK public, including 523 people who had visited an osteopath in the last 12 months. The results are presented in the following full and summary reports:

These reports went to Council in May 2015 along with a commentary on the findings of the study and the findings of the Community Research public-patient focus groups.

The GOsC commentary highlights the implications of the research for regulation, the work of the GOsC, individual osteopaths and the osteopathic profession as a whole.

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. In the report, the 2018 results are compared with the 2014 results.

Using these findings

Linking the findings from this is public and patient perceptions research evidence with that arising from other current GOsC research, including the McGivern work relating to promoting effective regulation, provides a strong evidential basis for our policy and standards development, and for shaping public information. Producing public information that closely meets patient needs is in the best interests of all, and could do much to increase public confidence in osteopathic practice.

We plan to use the findings to shape guides and resources for osteopaths from which they can draw content when developing their practice information. We will also look to share findings and learning with osteopathic education providers to inform the training of students.