The continued development of a sense of community is an essential feature for the growth, recognition and regulation of the osteopathic profession. In Europe the body working towards a greater vision where, regardless of borders, osteopathy stands together is the European Federation & Forum for Osteopathy (EFFO). Hanna Tómasdóttir, President of the EFFO, sets out the inner workings of this ‘organisation of organisations’ and how through shared learnings and values, a greater vision for osteopathy across Europe is being inspired.
An organisation of organisations
It took over a century, from osteopathy’s arrival in Europe in 1913, to the establishment of the European CEN Standard on Osteopathic Healthcare Provision (EN16686) in 2015, for the profession to have a wider sense of acknowledgement through a standardisation for high quality clinical practice, education, safety and ethics for Osteopathy in Europe. This European Standard was significant for our profession to set a benchmark of care expected of osteopaths in Europe, as well as to generate a core framework for the community that exists today, and has already been proven to be very useful when it comes to regulation. The regulation process in Denmark was, for example, assisted by the establishment of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Benchmark for Training in Osteopathy, published in 2010, and the CEN standard. These two benchmark documents were of great assistance to the Danish government in their determinations, and for the Danish Patient Safety Authority, where they served as a reference for basic level of education and as an overall qualification framework for the osteopathic profession. Both standards are used as target standards by EFFO members and many of the osteopathic education providers across Europe. Established in March 2018, the EFFO was born when its two predecessors – the European Federation for Osteopaths (EFO) and the Forum for Osteopathic Regulation in Europe (FORE) merged. The EFFO is currently made up of professional associations and regulators from 22 European countries, with two associate members (Canada and Israel) – as only those based in Europe can be considered full members – and represents over 25,000
practitioners in these countries.
The four pillars of the EFFO
Our organisational model is member focussed, and member driven. The Board of the EFFO includes six members from six separate member countries and consists of: Hanna Tómasdóttir (Denmark), President; Jonathan Bailey-Teyletche (UK), Vice President; Alex Boon (Belgium), General Secretary; Dimitri Boulenger (Greece), Treasurer; Richard Weynen (Germany), Research; Lluís Horta (Spain), Board Member and Maurice Cheng (UK), Chief Executive. The Board is supported by four member driven Working Groups that represent the four pillars of the EFFO: Education, Regulation, Research and Communication & Marketing. These four Working Groups work towards a deeper understanding, mission and objectives of their specialist areas, sharing their contribution and progress at our meeting, so that collectively we can reach decisions about what the EFFO does, and how we can best support the profession, and the members.
Meetings that embrace our community, our vision and our goals
At our twice a year meetings, set up by the Board, we aim to select a location which would benefit from our representation and support for the osteopathic profession in that country. For example, our Spring Conference and Annual General Meeting this year in March was held in Lisbon, Portugal and the 2019 Autumn Meeting was held in Madrid, Spain. By holding our conference alongside meetings with local politicians and stakeholders we are able to support the lobbying effort to further assist promotion, regulation and recognition of osteopathy in the respective countries. Our Autumn Conference and General Meeting in September 2020 was planned to take place in Oslo, Norway, but had to be held online due to COVID-19. Each meeting is attended by one or more national representatives of the respective organisations who contribute General meeting in Madrid 2019 to their knowledge and skillset. The structure of those meetings are set by the Board with contribution from all four Working Groups. At our last meeting, for example, the Education Working Group presented a draft statement about where the EFFO would like to encourage and support the development of osteopathic education to our membership. This statement is about the importance of maintaining and developing high standards for osteopathic education, as described by CEN for Type I and Type II programmes. Furthermore, the education programmes should meet national requirements for recognised qualifications, where applicable. The statement was approved by the EFFO membership and will be implemented as our vision and aim for education within our profession. At the same meeting the Regulation Working Group introduced a draft of a document that provides an overview of regulation of the osteopathic profession in Europe. This draft was shown to all our respective membership who were able to provide their comments and ideas. Yet to be published, we are aiming for it to be a shared, editable and translatable publication to reflect the changing face of the regulation of the profession. These member-driven contributions from our Working Groups acts as a valuable toolkit to all our membership who are working to improve standards and recognition or gain regulation of our profession in their home countries. Our annual meetings are therefore much more than just a platform for networking. We are sharing and learning about our profession; improving Public Relations; brainstorming future projects, establishing visions, aims and goal setting; and sharing our ultimate passion: osteopathy. We are being opened-minded and embracing all our membership in a helpful, constructive manner. This shared nature of working is at the heart of what we do and proliferates the community of osteopaths that we are today.
Through COVID-19: closer than ever
During this year, as an organisation we have come closer together. At the start of lockdown, when a lot of osteopaths in Europe were forced to close their clinics, we set up a Task Force, consisting of all the four Working Group Chairs; Laura Lee Kamppila (Finland) Chair for the Communication & Marketing Working Group, Chiara Arienti (Italy) Chair for the Research Working Group, Tomas Collin (Norway) Chair for the Education Working Group, Hanna Tómasdóttir (Denmark) Chair for the Regulation Working Group and Maurice Cheng (UK), representing the EFFO.
The Task Force, who communicated and worked on a daily basis during the first many months, established live webinars, provided the national representatives with education in Social Media, and created our own You-Tube Channel, where you can watch many of our webinars. Beside these contributions the EFFO Board has held regular online Network Members Meetings with the aim of sharing national updates on restrictions, news and
implications for osteopaths, and to inspire and engage our membership. Through navigating the changing face of governmental guidelines and restrictions we came closer together in an adverse, unpredictable global situation never before seen.
Expanding our European reach and regulation
In total there are 44 countries in Europe, and one of the EFFO goals is to one day be formed by the whole European community, because we need this greater community to support each other and for the profession to evolve and thrive. Eleven countries in Europe have currently achieved regulation of the osteopathic profession on a governmental level. Those countries are: Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and most recently, Norway! The way forward for the profession is to be fully regulated and recognised as a primary healthcare profession in all European countries.
“The more we are able to represent osteopaths together, the stronger we are. Being an active part of the European Federation & Forum for Osteopathy supports the promotion and regulation of the osteopathic profession, as a recognised primary healthcare profession, nationally and internationally, while contributing to our thriving and united European community“.