To ensure doctors are safeguarded under the Bribery Act 2011, medical defence organisation MDDUS has advised GP practices to ensure they have a policy on accepting Christmas gifts.
The organisation has also recommended that practices keep a gift register, especially for items with an individual value of more than £100, which could be made available to the primary care organisation on request.
The Bribery Act 2011 makes it a criminal offence to offer financial or other advantages with the intention of inducing a person to perform an 'action improperly'.
It is also illegal for clinicians to request, agree to receive, or accept an inducement.
The MDDUS said: ‘In many cases it may be entirely appropriate to accept a small token or recognition of gratitude, but there are times when a gift can represent something more.'
MDDUS head of professional services Dr Jim Rodger said: ‘A doctor should consider whether that by accepting a gift, they are altering their relationship with a patient and encouraging favouritism.
‘You must consider whether accepting a gift could be seen to influence your decision making or affect your professional judgment. You should make it clear to any gift-giver that their gesture will not have any impact on the care you provide.’
Dr Rodger reminded GPs that while facing charges under the Bribery Act was unlikely, the main risk lay in falling foul of GMC guidelines.
GMC guidance in Good Medical Practice warns doctors that patient gifts may affect, or be seen to affect, the treatment they give.