GPs should refuse valentine’s gifts, say experts

Published15th February 2017
AuthorPosted by Tim Martin

Credit: This story was first seen on On Medica


GPs should refuse any valentine’s day cards and gifts offered to them by patients, according to medico-legal advisers.


The warning was made today by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) which carried out a survey with responses from 336 GPs and consultants in the UK which showed that 9.23% of them had received a valentine’s day card or gift during their careers, On Medica reports.


The MPS said some cards and gifts from a patient to a doctor could be straightforward expressions of gratitude, but on valentine’s day, such a gesture was more complicated and could present some ethical dilemmas.


Dr Helen Hartley, medicolegal adviser at MPS, said: “Doctors can often be offered cards and small gifts from patients as tokens of gratitude for the care they have received. On a regular day of the year, they will consider such things as the appropriateness of the card and gift, the value of the gift and whether accepting it could impact on the doctor patient relationship, for example, whether the patient may expect preferential treatment in the future.


“Doctors may also discuss with colleagues to ensure there is transparency, and check current guidelines. But a gift or card on valentine’s day – while it may still be innocent – makes things more complicated and potentially embarrassing.”


She added that since a valentine’s day card or gift was usually an expression of someone’s affection, or romantic feelings, this was inappropriate for a doctor patient relationship.


“Where appropriate, doctors should politely decline a valentine’s day card or gift, adopt a more formal manner and remind patients of their duty as their doctor and the professional boundaries that must be protected in order for the patient to receive quality, impartial care,” she said. “The conversation can be documented and discussed with a colleague, including whether care should be transferred to another doctor if there are further advances.”


The GMC provided advice, she added, on maintaining or re-establishing professional boundaries with patients, and on managing offers of high value gifts and policies which could avoid causing offence.

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