The Code outlines the standards of performance, conduct and ethics expected of chiropractors in the UK. Chiropractors must meet these standards to join and remain on our register.
By publishing standards that chiropractors must meet, patients can be confident that they will receive quality care in their chiropractic treatment.
To help meet the Code's requirements, the GCC also publishes separate guidance on various issues.
A breakdown of the principles and standards (A-H) can be found below.
This version of the Code is effective from 30 June 2016.
B3 amendment is effective from 1 October 2019
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the role of the Code?
The Code sets out the standards that chiropractors must meet if they wish to practise in the UK. By requiring chiropractors to meet the requirements in the Code, patients and the public can be confident that they will be safe and receive a high standard of care.
Chiropractors can also use the Code to demonstrate their commitment to delivering high standards of professionalism and safety. They should regularly refer to the Code to reflect on their practise and approach to patients and treatment.
Who is the Code for?
The Code is for any person with an interest in chiropractic. In particular:
How does the Code benefit patients?
The Code sets out what patients, their families, and the public can expect when seeing a chiropractor. It will reassure them that their protection and safety are at the centre of chiropractic practice and that they can visit a chiropractor knowing they will receive a professional level of treatment.
What areas does the Code cover?
The Code sets out the eight professional and ethical standards that chiropractors must meet. They are to:
What guidance is there to help chiropractors meet the Code?
The GCC offers guidance on a range of issues to help chiropractors in their daily practise to remain compliant with the Code's requirements.
Do all chiropractors have to comply with the Code?
Yes. Anyone wishing to register as a chiropractor in the UK, a legal requirement to treat patients, must comply with the Code.
What happens if chiropractors don't comply with the Code?
All readers must interpret the Code in the spirit for which it is intended. There may be occasions when an unintentional or minor standards breach occurs. This breach would not automatically involve or require further action from the GCC. However, the GCC takes its role as the UK's regulator of chiropractors seriously. It has clear processes and procedures for any concerns raised by patients, the public, chiropractors or other health professionals.
When was the Code last reviewed?
The 2016 Code results from a comprehensive review process, which started in 2013. During the review, it was agreed that the Code of Practice (CoP) and the Standard of Proficiency (SoP) should be merged into a single document.
The Code was developed with the assistance of patient groups, chiropractors, the chiropractic associations and the Royal College of Chiropractors. In line with the GCC's legislation, it was published 12 months before coming into effect.
When are you next planning to review the Code?
The GCC Council periodically reviews the Code as part of its remit to ensure it remains fit for purpose. It also allows the GCC to take into account developments within chiropractic practice, as well as changes in the broader healthcare system. Should a decision be taken to conduct a formal review of the Code, the GCC will involve its stakeholders, including patients, in that process.
The Code principles and standards (A-H)
You must put patients’ health first, respect them and ensure that you promote their health and welfare at all times.
You must take account of these factors when assessing them, making referrals, or providing or arranging care. You must make sure that those receiving care are treated with respect, their rights are upheld and any discriminatory attitudes and behaviours are challenged.
A1: show respect, compassion and care for your patients by listening to them and acknowledging their views and decisions. You must not put any pressure on a patient to accept your advice.
A2: respect patients’ privacy, dignity and cultural differences and their rights prescribed by law.
A3: take appropriate action if you have concerns about the safety of a patient.
A4: treat patients fairly and without discrimination and recognise diversity and individual choice.
A5: prioritise patients’ health and welfare at all times when carrying out assessments, making referrals or providing or arranging care. Respect a patient’s right for a second opinion.
A6: treat patients in a hygienic and safe environment.
A7: safeguard the safety and welfare of children and vulnerable adults. As a professional, you must fulfil your legal obligations if you suspect that a child or vulnerable adult is at risk from abuse or neglect by following established local procedures for reporting that suspicion.
You must act with honesty and integrity at all times and uphold high standards of professional conduct and personal behaviour to ensure public confidence in the profession. You must be guided in your behaviour and practise at all times by the principle that the health and well-being of a patient comes first. You must follow procedures set down by the regulator.
B1: protect patients and colleagues from harm if your health, conduct or performance, or that of a regulated healthcare professional, puts patients at risk.
B2: ensure you, and any chiropractor who works with you on a contractual basis, are properly qualified, registered and insured.
B3: ensure your advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful as defined by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and conforms to their current guidance, such as the CAP Code.
B4: strictly maintain patient confidentiality when communicating publicly or privately, including in any form of social media or when speaking to or writing in the media.
B5: ensure your behaviour is professional at all times, including outside the workplace, thus upholding and protecting the reputation of, and confidence in, the profession and justifying patient trust.
B6: avoid placing any undue financial pressure on a patient to commit to any long term treatment that is not justified.
B7: fulfil the duty of candour by being open and honest with every patient. You must inform the patient if something goes wrong with their care which causes, or has the potential to cause, harm or distress. You must offer an apology, a suitable remedy or support along with an explanation as to what has happened.
B8: justify and record your reasons for either refusing care or discontinuing care for a patient. You must explain, in a fair and unbiased manner, how they might find out about other healthcare professionals who may be able to offer care.
B9: follow established procedures for informing the GCC if you are subject to criminal proceedings or a regulatory finding has been made against you anywhere in the world. You must cooperate with the GCC when asked for information.
You must uphold the high standards of the chiropractic profession by delivering safe and competent care to each patient. This applies to all aspects of clinical practice and patient care.
C1: obtain and document the case history of each patient, using suitable methods to draw out the necessary information.
C2: when carrying out a physical examination of a patient use diagnostic methods and tools that give due regard to patient health and dignity. You must document the results of the examination in the patient’s records and fully explain these to the patient.
C3: use the results of your clinical assessment of the patient to arrive at a working diagnosis or rationale for care which you must document. You must keep the patient fully informed.
C4: develop, apply and document a plan of care in full agreement with the patient. You must check the effectiveness of the care and keep the plan of care under review. A more formal reassessment of the effectiveness of the plan of care must be undertaken at intervals that suit the patient and their needs. All subsequent modifications to the plan of care must be discussed and agreed with the patient and properly documented.
C5: select and apply appropriate evidence-based care which meets the preferences of the patient at that time.
C6: cease care, or aspects of care, if this is requested by the patient or if, in your professional judgement, the care will not be effective, or if, on review, it is in the patient’s best interest to stop. You must refer the patient to another healthcare professional where it is in their best interests.
C7: follow appropriate referral procedures when making a referral or a patient has been referred to you; this must include keeping the healthcare professional making the referral informed. You must obtain consent from the patient to do this.
C8: ensure that investigations, if undertaken, are in the patient’s best interests and minimise risk to the patient. All investigations must be consented to by the patient. You must record the rationale for, and outcomes of, all investigations. You must adhere to all regulatory standards applicable to an investigation which you perform.
C9: ensure all equipment used in your practice is safe and meets all relevant regulatory standards.
The professional relationship between a chiropractor and a patient depends upon confidence and trust. It is your duty to uphold that trust and confidence.
You must establish and maintain clearly defined professional boundaries between yourself and your patients to avoid confusion or harm and to protect the welfare and safety of patients and those who care for them.
D1: not abuse the position of trust which you occupy as a professional. You must not cross sexual boundaries.
D2: be professional at all times and ensure you, and any staff you employ, treat all patients with equal respect and dignity.
D3: explain the reason to the patient if there is a need for the patient to remove items of clothing for examination; if that needs to happen, you must offer the patient privacy to undress and the use of a gown.
D4: consider the need, during the assessments and care, for another person to be present to act as chaperone; particularly if the assessment or care might be considered intimate or where the patient is a child or a vulnerable adult.
Patient consent must be voluntary and informed. It is your duty to ensure the patient has all the necessary information and support they need in order to give it. You must ensure that, when the circumstances of a patient’s care changes, the patient continues to consent to treatment. (NB: The term patient has been used throughout this principle but consent may need to be obtained from a representative chosen by or appointed to act on behalf of a patient).
E1: share with the patient accurate, relevant and clear information to enable the patient to make informed decisions about their health needs and relevant care options. You must also take into consideration a patient’s capacity to understand.
E2: obtain and record consent from a patient prior to starting their care and for the plan of care.
E3: check with the patient that they continue to give their consent to assessments and care.
E4: ensure the consent of a patient is voluntary and not under any form of pressure or undue influence.
E5: seek parental consent first if a child is to be seen without someone else being present, unless the child is legally competent to make their own decisions.
E6: always obtain a patient’s consent if it becomes necessary for the purposes of examination and treatment during care, for you to adjust and/or remove items of the patient’s clothing.
E7: obtain and record the express consent (i.e. orally or in writing) from the patient regarding sharing information from their patient record. You must not disclose personal information to third parties unless the patient has given their prior consent for this to happen – see also H2.
The relationship between a chiropractor and a patient is built on trust, confidence and honesty. You must communicate effectively with patients in order to establish and maintain a professional relationship and encourage patients to take an informed role in their care.
F1: explore care options, risks and benefits with patients, encouraging them to ask questions. You must answer fully and honestly, bearing in mind patients are unlikely to possess clinical knowledge.
F2 have visible and easy-to-understand information on patient fees, charging policies and systems for making a complaint. These policies must include the patient’s right to change their mind about their care, and, their right to refer any unresolved complaints to the GCC.
F3: involve other healthcare professionals in discussions on a patient’s care, with the patient’s consent, if this means a patient’s health needs will be met more effectively.
F4: take account of patient communication needs and preferences.
F5: listen to, be polite and considerate at all times with patients including regarding any complaint that a patient may have.
F6: provide information to patients about all individuals responsible for their care, distinguishing, if needed, between those responsible for delegated aspects and for their day-to-day care. This must include the arrangements for when you are not available.
As a healthcare professional you are required to use your professional judgement to recognise and work within the limits of your own knowledge, skills and competence to ensure patient safety and protect the reputation of the profession.
To assure your continuing fitness to practise you must maintain and develop your professional knowledge, skills and performance in accordance with the requirements set out by the GCC.
G1: keep your knowledge and skills up to date, taking part in relevant and regular learning and professional development activities that aim to maintain and develop your competence and improve your performance and the quality of your work.
G2: maintain your knowledge to ensure it is up to date and accurate in terms of the law, regulations relevant to your work and GCC guidance.
G3: recognise and work within the limits of your own knowledge, skills and competence.
G4: make clear the limits of your competence and knowledge to patients.
G5: refer to, or seek expertise from, other chiropractors or healthcare professionals, when needed.
G6: not require anyone else to take on responsibilities for patient assessment and care where it would be beyond their level of knowledge, skills or experience.
It is your responsibility to maintain and protect the information you obtain directly or indirectly in the course of your work. Confidentiality is central to the relationship between chiropractor and patient.
The records you keep must be an accurate reflection of the clinical encounter and must include any factors relevant to the patient’s ongoing care, including their general health.
H1: keep information about patients confidential and avoid improper disclosure of their personal information.
H2: only disclose personal information without patient consent if required to do so by law.
H3: ensure your patient records are kept up to date, legible, attributable and truly representative of your interaction with each patient.
H4: ensure the safe storage of patient records so that they remain in good condition and are kept secure. Storage should be for at least a period relevant to the age of the patient as prescribed by law.
H5: make proper arrangements if you close down your practice or move clinics and have appropriate arrangements in place in the event of your death.
H6: make sure that patient records remain your responsibility, even where a patient has moved, unless you have contractually transferred this responsibility to another healthcare professional or organisation.
H7: give patients access to their personal health records as required by law.
Capacity: Ability of a patient to understand, remember and consider information provided to them. Note: the legal framework for the treatment of a child lacking the capacity to consent differs across the nations of the UK. It is important you operate within the relevant law that applies in the nation in which you are practising.
Care: Interventions by chiropractors that are designed to improve health, covering promoting health, maintaining health and preventing ill health, and addressing health needs. The methods that might be used include: -
the use of other technologies – for example, ultrasound, traction, relaxation exercises, applying hot and cold packs, dry needling
advice, explanation and reassurance – for example, explaining the kinds of activity and behaviour that will promote recovery, giving nutritional and dietary advice
exercise and rehabilitation
multidisciplinary approaches – for example, making referrals joint plans of care with other healthcare professionals
supporting the patient’s health and wellbeing with other carers and stakeholders – for example, relatives, employers
preventative measures linked to the patient’s lifestyle – for example, eating, exercise, stress management
preventative measures linked to the patient’s environment – for example, their home, workplace
promoting health and wellbeing – for example, using behaviour-change approaches
Carer: A person of any age, adult or child, who provides support to a partner, child, relative or friend who cannot manage to live independently or whose health or wellbeing would deteriorate without this help.
Case history: Detailed account of a person’s history which results from the acquisition of information through interview, questionnaires and assessment of medical information.
Chaperone: Person who is present during a professional encounter between a chiropractor and a patient, e.g. relatives, carers, representative or another member of the healthcare team.
Child: England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland each have their own guidance for organisations to keep children safe. They all agree that a child is anyone who is under the age of 18. (A young person generally refers to 16 and upwards).
Clinical assessment: Chiropractor’s evaluation of a disease or condition based on the patient’s report of their health (that is, their physical, psychological and social wellbeing) and symptoms and course of the illness or condition, along with the objective findings including examination, laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, medical history and information reported by relatives and/or carers and other healthcare professionals.
Consent: Acceptance by a patient of a proposed clinical intervention after having been informed, as far as reasonably can be expected, or all relevant factors relating to that intervention.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD): Means by which members of the profession maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge and skills and develop the personal qualities required in their professional lives. The means will be explained on the GCC website and updated from time to time.
Delegate: Asking someone else to provide care on a chiropractor’s behalf.
Equipment: Instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article, whether used alone or in combination, including the software necessary for its proper application, intended by the manufacturer to be used for human beings.
Evidence-based care: Clinical practise that incorporates the best available evidence from research, the expertise of the chiropractor, and the preference of the patient.
Health: ‘A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (World Health Organisation).
Investigation: Clinical study which contributes to the assessment of a patient which may include diagnostic imaging technology, examining systems and laboratory testing.
Local procedures: Arrangements set out, developed and published by local authorities across the UK for the management of referrals and assessments of a child or vulnerable person.
Must: This means that the duty as set out in the standard is compulsory.
Patient: Individuals who have been given clinical advice or assessment and/or care by a chiropractor. The term ‘patient’ has been used to save space and is intended to cover all related terms that might be used such as ‘client’ or ‘service user’.
Patient rights: The standards for performance, ethics and conduct must be applied in the context of current and their successor legislation specific to patients as individuals – relevant current Acts are documented in the reference document on the GCC website under publications.
Patient confidentiality: Right of an individual to have information about them kept private.
Patient examination: Clinical assessment of a patient with the intention of reaching, or reviewing, a rationale for care.
Plan of care: Treatment protocol designed to deliver therapeutic benefit to patients following clinical assessment.
Rationale for care: Reasons why chiropractors are providing treatment for a patient.
Reassessment: Formal review of whether the treatment is having the desired effect, whether changes to it are required or if the patient should be referred to another healthcare professional.
Record: Document containing personal information and information relating to the clinical assessment and working diagnosis or rationale for care of a patient. Typically it should include: relevant clinical findings, decisions made, actions agreed, names of those involved in decisions and agreement; information provided to the patient and the name of the person creating the record.
Referral: Transferring of responsibility for care to a third party for a particular purpose, such as additional investigation, care or treatment that is outside the chiropractor’s competence.
Representative: A person chosen by or appointed to act or speak on behalf of a patient.
Working diagnosis: A working decision kept under review.
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