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Routinely offer patients a chaperone

Newly qualified GPs should routinely offer patients a chaperone for intimate or other delicate consultations, theMedical Defence Union is advising.

The MDU said it had seen a number of complaints made by patients of both sexes against both male and female GPs which could have been av-oided if a chaperone had been present.

Dr Emma Cuzner, MDU medicolegal adviser, said GPs should also consider using chaperones when examining children or when examinations were carried out with dimmed lights.

She said: 'While chaperones can discourage unfounded allegations of improper behaviour, their primary role is to provide patients with reassurance and emotional support when undergoing an examination which might be uncomfortable or embarrassing.'

Nurses, health care assistants or a patient's adult relative could act as a chaperone, Dr Cuzner said.

Dr Caroline Jones said her practice in New Ferry, Merseyside, had put a notice up in the waiting area urging patients to say if they would like a chaperone, but it was difficult to persuade them to do so.

Dr Jones said: 'It can be quite difficult; it depends whether the person would be happy with our receptionist coming in.'

She added family members were not always appropriate and practice nurses were as busy as GPs themselves.

Advice on using a chaperone

  • Record if a chaperone was offered and declined
  • Use a chaperone of the same gender as the patient where possible
  • Record the chaperone's identity in the notes
  • Position the chaperone so they can see the patient and the examination
  • Let them hear the explanation of the examination and the patient's consent
  • Avoid making personal remarks

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