Council standards of competence and conduct


One of our core obligations under the HPCA Act is to set standards of competence and ethical conduct that osteopaths are required to comply with. These standards, together with the scope of practice, underpin the practice of osteopathy in Aotearoa New Zealand.  All osteopaths are expected to be familiar with, and comply with these standards and all other Council policies and guidelines on good practice.

Code of Conduct (January 2023)

Code of Conduct - A Critical te Tiriti Analysis (November 2022)

Previous version: Code of Conduct (September 2020)

Osteopathic Practice Competencies (January 2023)

Previous version: Capabilities for Osteopathic Practice

Other Council policies and guidelines for good practice

Guidelines for Record Keeping (April 2017)

Position Statement for Cervical Manipulation (August 2016)

Guidelines for Informed Consent

Telehealth Standard

Telehealth guidelines for osteopaths

Practice Guidelines for the Examination and Treatment Sensitive Areas in Osteopathic Practice (August 2022)

Advertising Policy (September 2016)

Capabilities of Paediatric Practice

Guidelines for the Use of Western Medical Acupuncture and Osteopathic Practice

Abbreviations Used in Osteopathic Treatment


How to reduce your risk of complaints

Many of the complaints we receive arise from miscommunication or misunderstanding between osteopaths and their patients.  To minimise risk in this regard, we suggest that you always:

  • communicate clearly with every patient, making sure that you understand what they are telling you, and vice versa; 
  • explain to your patient what you are going to do and why, and whether there are any risks involved;
  • ensure that you have consent to do what you say you are going to do - and if you propose to examine or treat genitalia or sensitive areas, ensure you are familiar with our guidelines on this
  • Always offer a gown or towel for patients to cover themselves if they wish;
  • Keep clear notes of each consultation that are sufficiently detailed for:

    1. another person to be able to carry on with treatment if you are unable to do so for any reason
    2. you to be able to recall exactly what happened should a complaint be made against you.

If a patient says that they don’t want a particular treatment then you can’t do it, even if you think that not doing it will be detrimental to their health or wellbeing. In such a situation it might be helpful to try explaining in a different way what you want to do and why, or offer an alternative treatment.

If a patient verbally complains to you or raises a concern with you about something you have done, we recommend that you:

  • take the time to hear their concerns;
  • seek to understand their reasons for the concern;
  • respond respectfully and appropriately - even if you believe their concerns are unfounded;
  • ask them what resolution they seek; 
  • if necessary, ask them for some time to reflect on what they have said and assure them you will respond;
  • ensure you follow up with a response, including whether you have made any changes to your practice and letting them know their options if they are not satisfied with your response.

Complaints can be a valuable learning tool.  We strongly recommend you genuinely reflect on any complaints you receive, and consider whether there might be things you can do differently.  Remember, a genuine reflection of this kind can also be recorded as professional development.

What to do if you know of someone who is claiming to be an osteopath, but is not registered and/or does not hold a current practising certificate


Using the title "osteopath" is unlawful unless the person is registered as an osteopath with us.  If you think somebody is unlawfully holding themselves out as an osteopath, please let us know. You will need to provide their name, practice location, and any information to support your concerns. Information could include (for example):

  • a business card or an advertisement in a newspaper that suggests or states that the person is an osteopath or is practising osteopathy.
  • a sign outside the person’s business that suggests that they practice osteopathy
  • an advertisement on the Internet that suggests that the person practices osteopathy.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for prosecuting these cases; however, we do work with its enforcement unit where necessary and can refer on any information you are able to give us.

To confirm if a person is currently registered to work as an osteopath in New Zealand, you can search the register here or contact the Registrar directly.

Note:  HVLA is a restricted activity under the Act.  It is unlawful to perform HVLA unless you are a registered health practitioner whose scope of practice permits it.  However, unregistered people can perform all the other activities an osteopath performs, provided they do not state or imply or otherwise hold themselves out out to be an osteopath.