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Should a newly appointed staff member remain a patient of ours?

Advice to a isolated practice which has appointed a patient to the staff and is reluctant to ask her to change practices because of the distance involved

Advice to a isolated practice which has appointed a patient to the staff and is reluctant to ask her to change practices because of the distance involved

Q We have just recruited someone to our reception team but she is already a registered patient at the practice. We are in quite a remote area and the nearest practice is five miles away Should we ask her to find a new GP even so?

A It is often difficult to remain objective when treating an employee or anyone else with whom you have a professional or personal relationship.

So where possible it is better to avoid treating staff. This includes GP colleagues, nurses, receptionists, practice managers and cleaners.

The GMC also advises that: "Doctors should, wherever possible, avoid treating themselves or anyone with whom they have a close personal relationship" (Paragraph 13, Good Practice in Prescribing Medicines, 2006).

It may be better to ask your new staff member to register at this other practice, if it is practical for her.

However, in remote areas where there is only one GP surgery it may be that there is no alternative than to treat friends, relatives and staff.

In cases like these, GPs are advised to make sure that patients are aware of potential pitfalls, including the difficulties that could arise in remaining objective although this may be mitigated, for example, by seeking a second opinion, where necessary, from a colleague.

While staff will be expected to maintain confidentiality, your new receptionist should also be warned that there might be occasions when personal information about her may need to be shared with colleagues who are members of the healthcare team.

If she has any objections, these should be noted and alternative care plans put into place where practical, except where this would result in the risk of death or serious harm occurring (Para 10 Confidentiality: protecting and providing information, GMC, 2004).

Dr Anahita Kirkpatrick, MDU medico-legal adviser

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