More patients making 'amorous advances' to GPs online

Cases of GPs receiving amorous messages from patients via text messages and social media are on the rise, a medical defence organisation has warned.

Online risk: patients are turning to social media to make advances to GPs

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) said in the last five years it received 100 reports from doctors of patients using Facebook, Twitter or text messages to make amorous advances.

GPs are among the doctors most commonly contacted by patients in this way, it said. Out of the 100 cases reported, 72 were from GPs.

In one case seen by the MDU, a GP received repeated friend requests on Facebook from a patient, who also sent letters and gifts. The patient later made a complaint to the GMC, claiming that she and the doctor had had a sexual relationship. She eventually admitted that she had fabricated the allegations.

In order to avoid future contacts from patients, GPs may have to change mobile numbers or email addresses and activate privacy settings on social networks, the MDU said.

MDU medico-legal adviser and former GP Dr Claire Macaulay said: ‘The trend towards patients making unsolicited advances to their doctor is not a new one.

‘But while in the past patients were likely to put pen to paper when making such approaches, patients are now using digital means. While this is hardly surprising, given the increasing use of electronic media, our members report that being bombarded with messages to their mobiles, or email, Twitter or Facebook accounts can, in some ways, be even more intrusive than receiving a stream of written letters.

‘Care and diplomacy are needed by the doctor, who should gently but firmly ask the patient to stop. Often a clear, written explanation that the doctor-patient relationship is a professional one and therefore personal intimacy is not possible is enough to bring matters to a close at an early stage.'

MDU tips on dealing with amorous patients:

  • Inform the patient politely but firmly that it is impossible for anything other than a purely professional relationship to exist between you and that their actions have overstepped the acceptable boundaries of the doctor/patient relationship.
  • Consider transferring the patient’s care to a colleague.
  • Keep a log of all calls and contacts.
  • Exercise caution before accepting gifts, as acceptance can be misconstrued.
  • Use privacy settings on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Consider withholding your mobile number if you use it to contact patients.
  • Don’t reply to Facebook messages from patients.
  • Contact the MDU for advice as soon as you become aware of any potential difficulties with a patient.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

GP appointment

General practice delivered 342m appointments in 2022 - and lost nearly 500 GPs

General practice in England delivered around 342m appointments in total in 2022 with...

NHS sign

Local GPs unite to take over two practices run by hospital trust

GPs in Swindon have come together to take over two practices that had spent more...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Why are junior doctors preparing to strike?

Talking General Practice speaks to BMA GP trainee committee chair Dr David Smith...


Practices face losing out on QOF income amid soaring demand

GP practices risk losing out on QOF income this year because sky-high demand for...

Nurse giving older man a COVID-19 vaccine

JCVI recommends targeted COVID-19 vaccination programme in 2023

People at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered a booster vaccination...

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay leaving number 10 Downing Street

Government sets out plans for 'major conditions' health strategy

The government is to set out a strategy to tackle six 'major' health conditions in...