Professional Indemnity Insurance For Osteopaths
As an osteopath, there is always the possibility that you could be accused of making a mistake. If a client alleges that you have provided them with inadequate advice or treatment, you would have to cover the legal costs associated with defending their allegations, as well as the compensation payable should the court order you to rectify the mistake.
Whilst it may seem like an unnecessary expense, professional indemnity insurance can cover you against these risks. In respect of the General Osteopathic Council’s registration requirements, you require this insurance in order to legally practise osteopathy in the UK. As part of your registration requirements, you must therefore purchase professional indemnity insurance with a minimum cover of £2.5 million.
Without professional indemnity insurance, your reputation and financial position could be left vulnerable if a claim is brought against you by one of your clients. Although you undoubtedly strive to provide the highest possible level of service, you are human and humans do make mistakes. Knowing that you have adequate professional indemnity insurance in place will help you to rest safe in the knowledge that if you were to make a mistake, you should not have to incur all the cost of putting it right.
Osteopathy - what trouble can it cause?
For those who suffer with the common ailments of back, neck, and shoulder pain, osteopathy is a complementary, alternative therapy which is supposed to offer relief. It's a form of treatment given without use of drugs or surgery, often utilising treatments such as 'spinal manipulation" to help release tension in the joints, muscles, and tendons. NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, says that there is evidence that osteopathy really works for chronic lower back pain, but unfortunately, it's not widely available on the NHS. With patients therefore paying up to £50 for a 30-minute session, we certainly hope that the unlucky people "treated" by the blundering (and sometimes downright abusive) osteopaths we"ve discovered got all of their money back...
The Blundering Brit Abroad Who Left Needles in a Patient's Bottom While He Went to Buy Sausage Rolls
A former British soldier and policeman, Paul Bolton, went abroad to New Zealand's South Island for two years from 2010 to "fulfill a personal dream" and work as an osteopath. Unfortunately, his methods were far from professional, as on one occasion he left a patient attached to an electric acupuncture machine -with needles in her bottom!- whilst he nipped out to a cafe to buy coffee and sausage rolls. After litany of complaints against him, he was banned from practising in New Zealand for twelve months, and given a large fine, including a bill for £22,700 for prosecution costs. Other complaints against him included the allegation that he frequently resorted to "excessively inappropriate foul language"; had threatened to strangle a colleague and "watch her eyes pop out"; had an intimidating and threatening manner, and had often left patients unattended with needles inserted in their bodies.
The Story of the Abusive Southampton Osteopath
This sad story about abusive former osteopath Anthony Agius from Hampshire shows how easily vulnerable people can be exploited by those in a position of trust. The woman cannot be named for legal reasons, and so was simply known at the trial as Patient A.
Agius promised Patient A that he could help her lose two stone in just two weeks, and moved her into his house for a ten-day "residential programme", during which he abused and manipulated her both physically and verbally.
Agius was convicted at his trial of charges that he sucked a colonic irrigation tube before inserting it into Patient A; had told the woman that she was his "personal slave"; had failed to have left the room while she was undressing, and had invited her into his bed while she was in her nightgown. The erratic and inappropriate behaviour was alleged to have continued on a trip to London, when Agius booked a double room with just one bed for them both, and told Patient A that she would be his "personal assistant" on the trip. He is also said to have gone "beserk" when the room's fridge was accidentally switched off, and to have talked constantly about sex. The patient spoke about his controlling behaviour, saying the osteopath "was almost acting like he owned me", and on another occasion, Agius let trainees practise osteopathy treatments on Patient A without her consent.
The six-day hearing in Southampton found Agius guilty of 52 of the 54 allegations against him, and he has since been struck off by the General Osteopathic Council and has lost his job. He did not attend the tribunal, and even attempted to have it adjourned, claiming to be suffering from an anxiety depressive disorder.
Inappropriate Relationship with Patient By a Football Club's Osteopath Leads to A Disciplinary Hearing
As with doctors, it's inappropriate for osteopaths to have sexual relationships with their patients. A football club osteopath was found guilty in 2014 of unacceptable professional misconduct due to his ongoing relationship with a vulnerable female patient. He was duly suspended from the profession for four months, although he will be allowed to practise once more when that time limit has expired, as it was felt at his hearing that he had learned his lesson and his capacity for rehabilitation was 'substantial".
When it comes to complaints about osteopaths, research done by the University of Brighton shows that by by far the most frequent concerns are about adverse events in clinical care, i.e. treatments doing more harm than good, and causing the patient more pain than they experience before they saw their osteopath. Although complaints regarding adverse events or injuries are by far the highest of all complaints about osteopaths in the UK, the problem of appropriate professional boundaries -as we have seen in some of the cases above- come second.
Patients feel vulnerable in a state of undress, so perhaps it's best to exercise a little caution if you see any health professional- while most osteopaths are trusted and reliable, as with doctors, patients should be offered chaperones for intimate examinations. Finally, don't forget that any patient can always complain to the General Osteopathic Council if an informal complaint to your osteopath is brushed off. Let's hope no-one else runs into unprofessional and abusive osteopaths like the ones we"ve examined here.