Are professional standards about more than just compliance? – comply or excel?

ARCHIVED POST N.B. This post is based on the 2012 Osteopathic Practice Standards and therefore may not reflect current legislation or current Mint procedures.

“To comply means to meet specified standards”

Most regulators don’t like using the word comply.  Surely, this is what regulators are seeking you might argue.  For sure regulators want to see the professionals they regulate meeting the professional standards deemed best practice for their profession.  However being compliant doesn’t necessarily mean you are achieving best practice.  It is not just a matter of ticking boxes as the 2013 Francis enquiry indicated.  Tick box compliance is an issue across many industries – security, health and safety, IT, healthcare etc. etc.

A different approach to compliance

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) states that a process-driven approach ineffective.  The culture of a firm, not its processes, lies at the core of how a firm behaves and treats its customers.

For osteopaths the focus should be on achieving best practice through professionalism.  The best experience for patients – safe, efficient, effective – there are many adjectives that could be applied.  Excelling in practice is about the culture of the practice – yes, even if you practice alone your practice still has a culture.

You may achieve the minimum legal duty – obtain consent, have your complaints process in place, provide patient information, have all your health and safety policies in place and yet not be excelling in practice.  In addition to high standards of professionalism practitioners need to be professionally engaged – that is keeping up to date with evidence based practice, legal requirements, professional issues and generally being engaged with the healthcare environment – in relation to this I would highly recommend becoming a regular reader of weekly blogs.

The culture of professionalism is about being the best we can – high patient satisfaction, recognising areas of weakness and doing something about them.

How are professional standards developed?

Standards are shaped by the law, patient expectations and data from patient complaints. Professional standards provide you with a guide to the minimum expectations from your clinic – what patients want/need.  You can use the standards to enable your practice to excel or simply to comply.    For example:

Standard A6 Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their own health

The support a practitioner may give to patients may be vastly different from simply giving some verbal advice, providing an exercise sheet, providing a personalised exercise program, sending regular general health advice, working in partnership with other health professionals they see etc. etc.

Identifying weaknesses

In my experience many osteopaths find it difficult to acknowledge weaknesses.  Perhaps this is an outcome of the underlying fear all practitioners experience from the litigation culture.

Reflective practice is one way to strive towards best practice.  Nobody is perfect and everyone can find areas for improvement and development.  Stagnant practice is at risk of incompetence arising.  There are constant developments in our understanding of the body and causes of conditions, pain science is rapidly evolving, laws relating to health change and improve in response to legal cases and best practice evidence.  Staying up-to-date with developments and implementing them in your clinical work and reflecting on practice will help you to run a practice that excels and patients recognise this engaged culture in a practice.

Read Fitness to Practice reports from osteopathy and other industries.  Consider whether your practice has any weaknesses in these areas.  Are there areas of knowledge you had not considered? Are there changes you need to make?

When was the last time you did an audit? Or a patient survey?

Are you offering a good environment, and service for your patients?  For your colleagues?

An opportunity for CPD

When the revalidation pilot took place one of the particularly useful aspects of the scheme was mapping against the professional standards.  Practitioners rated as red, amber or green their practice against each of the standards.  This would be a useful exercise to undertake periodically and could be used to inform your CPD, to work to improve your practice, to form the basis of a staff or patient survey.

Use your weaknesses or your answers to the questions posed above to focus your CPD on addressing key aspects of your practice and striving towards excellence in practice.

It is always beneficial to reflect on practice and assess whether what you think is happening is really taking place and whether you are upholding, maintaining and excelling in different areas.  A healthy practice is a reflective, developing practice.

Osteopathic Professionalism

There are more than 5000 osteopaths registered with GOsC.  Together we have a collective responsibility to strive towards professionalism – upholding and improving our reputation is a profession.  Osteopathy needs to move from isolation and a competitive spirit towards collaborative engagement.  There are many practitioners providing excellent examples of good, reflective practice excelling in their professionalism but this needs to be emulated throughout the profession.

There is a culture of change in osteopathy currently with many opportunities for practitioners to get involved.  Participating in the PROM scheme will help to gather valuable evidence of the effectiveness of osteopathy.  Regional and specialism groups are developing all over the country.  The Osteopathic Development Group is busy working on many projects – mentoring, patient charter etc. etc.  There is opportunity to undertake leadership training.   The IO is working towards chartered status.  NCOR is working hard to gather together evidence to inform practice.  I’m sure there are many more opportunities that I have missed.

Even writing that list makes me realise what an exciting period this is for the osteopathic profession.  Join in with something, if not many things and engage with your colleagues and be part of this period of change.  Osteopathy is striving towards increasing levels of professionalism.

Mint provides tools for reflection in the Mint Manual and many audit forms to help you towards developing your practice.  Our regular blogs and newsletters help to keep you up-to-date with standards and healthcare requirements.

McGivern report for GOsC

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