'Not appropriate' for GPs to accept Valentine's Day cards and gifts

GPs should be prepared to decline cards and gifts from patients this Valentine's Day, medicolegal defence groups have warned.

Around one in 10 doctors and consultants say they have been offered a Valentine’s Day card or gift from a patient at some point during their career, according to a Medical Protection survey.

But GPs should be wary of accepting gifts – especially on Valentine’s Day – the medicolegal group advises, and attempt to re-establish the professional boundaries of a formal doctor-patient relationship with patients.

Dr Helen Hartley, medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection, said: ‘We all know a Valentine’s Day card or gift, while sometimes anonymous, is usually an expression of someone’s affection, or romantic – even passionate – feelings.

‘This is obviously not an appropriate basis for a doctor-patient relationship, and doctors who find they are the object of a patient’s affection should take care to avoid any action that could be seen to encourage the patient.

Patient gifts

‘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.

‘The conversation can be documented and discussed with a colleague, including whether care should be transferred to another doctor if there are further advances.

‘It is also important to consider that these types of advances from a patient could be a symptom of loneliness and poor relationships, or the patient may suffer from mental health problems and be in need of psychiatric support.

‘The GMC provides advice on maintaining or re-establishing professional boundaries with patients, and on managing offers of high value gifts and policies which can avoid causing offence. Medical Protection also provides members with expert advice.’

Photo: iStock

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