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GPs warned over accepting Christmas gifts due to new bribery rules

GPs must be mindful of tough new rules on bribery before accepting any gifts from patients this Christmas, say medical defence experts.

The warning from the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) is in light of the passing of the Bribery Act this summer which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison or an unlimited fine for serious offences.

The Royal Mail has already asked its postal workers not to accept gifts greater than £30 for fear of the new legislation that makes it a criminal offence to offer financial or other advantages in an attempt to make someone perform an ‘action improperly'. It is also illegal for clinicians to ‘request, receive, or accept an inducement'.

The MDDUS says only a very serious offence would result in a prison sentence, but it is urging practices to publish guidelines on accepting gifts and to keep a register for all gifts their GPs receive on top of those over £100 which they are contractually obliged to declare.

Dr Jim Rodger, MDDUS head of professional services, said:'While it is possible in very serious cases for a GP to face charges under the Bribery Act, the main risk lies in falling foul of GMC guidelines which forbid doctors from asking for or accepting any inducement, gift or hospitality that may influence their judgement.'

‘A doctor should consider whether, that by accepting a gift, they are altering their relationship with a patient and encouraging favouritism.'

‘You should make it clear to any gift-giver that their gesture will not have any impact on the care you provide.'

A spokesperson for the Medical Defence Union said: ‘While the Bribery Act should certainly be taken into consideration, as long as a gift is given and received purely as an expression of the patient's gratitude and has no bearing on the clinical treatment they receive, it would in most circumstances be considered as acceptable for the doctor to keep the gift.'

However, she added: ‘Doctors should be mindful that the patient does not have any other ulterior motives by giving the gift, for example, they are not hoping to form a personal relationship with their doctor'.

The new recommendations add to the GMC's existing Good Medical Practice guidelines which warn: ‘You must not ask for or accept any inducement, gift or hospitality which may affect or be seen to affect the way you prescribe for, treat or refer patients. You must not offer such inducements'.

A spokesperson for the Medical Protection Society urged GPs to ‘be aware of and adhere to' the GMC's Good Medical Practice.

Alleged favouritism among GPs was in the spotlight earlier this year after Prime Minister David Cameron's scathing attack on GPs when he suggested some were giving preferential access to 'people with money' who they met at dinner parties.

Wacky gifts given to GPs

  • Washing up liquid
  • A replica Taj Mahal
  • Ashtrays 
  • A hamster

Source: MDU

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