Exclusive: GPs warned over accepting Christmas gifts from patients

GPs should consider potential ethical dilemmas before accepting gifts from patients this Christmas, warns medical defence organisation MDDUS.

Dr Parker: 'If doctors have any of these concerns, then they should be prepared to refuse the offer of the gift.’

Patients giving GPs presents may seem harmless but could have implications for the treatment GPs provide or patients expect, it says.

MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker said: ‘In all probability, patient gifts may be a genuine expression of appreciation for the care or treatment they have received. Even so, the complexities of the doctor-patient relationship mean difficulties can occasionally arise if the doctor accepts a gift from their patient.

‘In some cases, it might be entirely appropriate to accept a small token of gratitude, but there are times when a gift can represent something more.

‘By accepting a gift, a doctor may feel that they are indebted to the patient, influencing their clinical judgement. This may impact on the doctor-patient relationship and make objective decision-making more difficult.

‘Ultimately, doctors should consider whether by accepting a gift, they are altering their relationship with the patient. Factors that may influence the decision include the size of the gift and whether the patient is vulnerable or may be trying to influence their care. It is also worth considering how acceptance of the gift may be perceived by the public.

‘If doctors have any of these concerns, then they should be prepared to refuse the offer of the gift,’ he added.

The GMC offers guidance in Good Medical Practice - Financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest.

GMS contract regulations state that a register should be kept of gifts from patients or their relatives which have a value of £100 or more unless the gift is unconnected with the provision of services.

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