The prospect of this sort of co-operation has led to wider discussion between the three major osteopathic organizations and it is through such talks that future joint approaches to government might come. The flood of new, partly trained or untrained, practitioners has also concentrated the minds of those practitioners and their representatives who have had full time training. A united front is the only way that government agencies will be persuaded to act to sort out the current disorganized state of affairs. There have been two main attempts towards this end. The first in 1935 was initiated in the House of Lords, who appointed a select committee to look into the whole question of osteopathic recognition. At that time it was decided that the educational establishments of the day, and the profession as a whole, were too disorganized to warrent registration.
There was sympathy for the cause, but the profession was virtually told to put its house in order. To a large extent it has, insofar as it can. If the three full-time colleges and their associated organizations were to come together and seek registration it would probably succeed. However, the problem would still be, what was to be done with the 2,500 practitioners who do no fall into the category of having had a four year fulltime training? This, and the rivalry between the three organizations, was the main reason for the failure of the second attempt at legislation. In 1976 Mrs Joyce Butler M. P. presented a bill to parliament under the Ten-minute rule. In her speech to the House she stated (from Hansard report, 7 April 1976):
There is a growing interest among the general public, and even within the medical profession, in various less orthodox medical procedures, of which osteopathy, or treatment by manipulation, is probably the best known. The interest often comes from practical experience of the success of such treatment when more usual methods have failed. Some of it is also undoubteldy a reaction against excessive drug therapy and a search for more natural methods of treatment.
She concluded by saying:
With the growing public interest in this form of treatment it is important that it should be performed by adequately trained and experienced practitioners and that the public should be protected from those practicing skills based on home study 'quickie' courses and the like, or people who may put glossy but worthless diplomas on their walls. In this country there are two training colleges for osteopathy, The British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy and The British School of Osteopathy. Both have a full four-year course and strict entry requirements. These are recognized for student grants by the Inner London Education Authority and others. There is also the London College of Osteopathy which gives a one year course of training, to doctors. These colleges have their own private register which intending patients can consult.
Because of a failure on the part of the osteopathic organizations to agree to the proposed legislation, or to promote any common policy, the Bill was withdrawn, despite receiving an unapposed first reading. The positive results of this attempt include the fact that no opposition to the Bill was forthcoming either in or out of parliament. An editorial in the General Practitioner questioned whether the Bill went far enough, stating that a register, without legislation forbidding unqualified osteopaths from practicing, would be insufficient. The movement towards registration will continue as the profession comes together to present a united and valid claim.
The bill which I am seeking leave to introduce proposes that there should be a statutory register of all osteopaths who have followed such a recognized course of study for a required period. The Bill will set this out in greater detail and will, I believe, be an important contribution to the status and expansion of a very important profession. It will at the same time give additional protection to the public. They can be certain that the practitioner they consult is fully qualified if his name is on this register. It is a simple and limited measure which I hope the House will approve.