University College of Osteopathy: Training osteopaths to “treat” respiratory conditions in children

respiratory systemThe University College of Osteopathy (UCO) describes itself as “the leading provider of osteopathic education”. It is the only osteopathic institution in Europe that is allowed to award degrees. It would therefore be reasonable to expect that it provides high-quality, evidence-based education including continuing professional development (CPD) courses. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. The UCO offers a range of CPD courses, many of which are not evidence-based. I will cover more of these in future blog posts but for now I’d like to focus specifically on their CPD course on The Paediatric Respiratory System. If the idea of an osteopath (or a chiropractor, for that matter) treating children with respiratory problems doesn’t immediately start ringing alarm bells, then it should do. Read on to understand more.

The UCO’s Paediatric Respiratory System course is a 2-day training session that covers the “osteopathic management” of a range of respiratory conditions including asthma, croup, bronchiolitis and allergic rhinitis. There are a number of serious issues with this training course:

  1. Osteopathy has not been shown to be effective for any respiratory conditions, in children or adults.
  2. Some of the conditions covered on the course are serious and need to be treated by a doctor with appropriate specialist knowledge, e.g. paediatrician. Some children do unfortunately die from asthma and it is totally inappropriate for an osteopath to be trying to treat this.
  3. This is a 2-day training course. Two days. After which the osteopaths who have been on the course will then go and try their treatments on unsuspecting members of the public. Training to be a paediatrician in the UK typically takes around 8 years after completion of a medical degree. Obviously, this is not all focused on respiratory conditions but it is clearly going to involve a LOT more than 2 days of training in the treatment of respiratory conditions.
  4. During the course the osteopaths do not actually see any paediatric patients. They get to see photographs (from which they are supposed to identify “what visible features are suggestive of pathology”) and work through some case studies. The learning outcomes from this course include “Learn how to examine the respiratory system in children of different ages”. How is it possible to do this without actually seeing patients? In reality, it isn’t. It’s nonsense to suggest that a medical professional can be trained to treat a particular group of conditions when they have never seen any patients with those conditions during their training.


This course provides a wholly inadequate grounding in treating respiratory problems in children and uses treatment approaches that have not been shown to be effective. Some of these conditions can, on occasions, be life threatening. This presents a danger to members of the public who may be misled into taking their children for treatment when they should instead be receiving care from a suitably qualified doctor. When the UCO, which claims to be “the leading provider of osteopathic education”, is providing completely unsuitable training like this it raises serious concerns about the osteopathic profession as a whole.

If you are concerned about a respiratory problem in your child please take them to a doctor rather than an osteopath (or a chiropractor).

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