Ladies and Gentlemen, knowing as I do that you have a very busy three days coming up during which, no doubt, you will be subjected to a very large number of speeches, I hesitate to add another one to your list today. But I particularly wanted to say how delighted I am to be here today to celebrate ten years of statutory regulation in the United Kingdom. Regulation, I should say, is not necessarily something one equates always with celebration – however, in this case, I think, it most certainly is!
Many of you will recall, as do I, the incredible difficulties over a decade ago of getting things moving at a time when osteopathy was regarded by some in the profession as a new fangled and potentially threatening complementary discipline. How things have changed! Or, some people tell me as I was going round the room, perhaps not enough. In fact, we seem to have reached a point where it feels more conventional and mainstream than anything else. In pausing for a moment to reflect on the progress made, I did particularly want to pay a warm tribute to the work of Simon Fielding whom I am sure most of you know well. It was Simon, Ladies and Gentlemen who, can you believe this, spent the best part of twenty years leading the efforts to bring about the creation of the Act of Parliament, which brought the Council into life and then, with others, made sure that we had a viable organisation. I recall so well working with him all those years ago to help where I could to achieve the statutory regulation. And Simon has gone on being a wonderful help, as far as I am concerned, because every now and again, I find unfortunate people who have been mucked around in one way and another, and the great thing is to ask Simon for advice on where I can find a suitable osteopath. But twenty years ago, things were by no means easy. They still aren’t! In fact, I daresay I shall get into frightful trouble from the Ministry of Magic for even suggesting that something as “alternative” as osteopathy might be “a good thing”!
I remain enormously proud to be Patron of the General Osteopathic Council – especially, if I may say so, as it seems to me that the whole profession is moving into a new era, having established itself so effectively as a source of leadership and knowledge within the international osteopathic community and across healthcare disciplines. I do wonder, therefore, whether the time has now come to look at ways of improving access to osteopathic services for everybody, regardless of ability to pay? This would clearly mean a closer working relationship with the National Health Service and even greater integration with mainstream healthcare delivery, both at primary and secondary care levels. It just seems to me that having done so well since achieving statutory regulation over the last decade, such a development could be regarded as a rather splendid exercise in organic growth…not genetically-modified!
No doubt these and other themes will form the heart of your conference discussions over the next three days – the importance of efficacy and cost-effectiveness are, of course, vital in all of this and I understand that the National Council for Osteopathic Research has a particularly significant role in contributing to the advancement of the profession in these areas…
Now, if I may say so, I am also enormously encouraged to hear of other initiatives – the Forum for Osteopathic Regulation in Europe, for example, is helping to find practical ways through the sometimes complex legislation and is trying to ensure greater collaboration between sectors of the profession across Europe and, indeed, around the world. Osteopathic educational institutions now offer university- validated courses and public funding of osteopathic training courses makes it a viable career option for many students.
None of this progress would have been possible without the underpinning statutory regulation. Crucially, the General Osteopathic Council has helped to blaze the trail for the robust regulation of all complementary therapies. My Foundation has also been very active in this field, working with the Department of Health to bring other therapies up to similarly rigorous standards – not an easy take, I can assure you - and I am delighted that the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, as it will be known, has the responsibility of strengthening safeguards for patients without imposing even greater amounts of unnecessary red tape.
It simply remains, therefore, for me to thank the Members of the Council, past and present, Lay and Osteopath, for dedicating their time and expertise, and to pay tribute to the retiring Chairman, Nigel Clarke, and the former Chief Executive and Registrar, Madeleine Craggs, under whose leadership the profession has been skilfully guided through its very challenging formative years. My warmest good wishes go to the new Chairman, Professor Adrian Eddleston, and Chief Executive and Registrar, Evlynne Gilvary as they lead the General Osteopathic Council into the next ten years…
So Ladies and Gentleman, I can only wish you all every possible success and every beneficial result from your conference. It has been a great pleasure to see you all again.