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Doctors’ gifts from patients this year included potatoes, rhubarb and foie gras

Chocolates (and other edible food) and alcohol are the most popular gifts from patients to doctors, although other gifts given this year include underwear, a walking stick and a knife.

A survey of 188 doctors (of which 58 were GPs) by the MDU found that 65% of respondents received at least one gift in the year. Only seven respondents received more than 15 gifts in the last year, five of whom were GPs.

76% of these received chocolates and other edible gifts and 45% received alcohol. As well as chocolate and wine, doctors also received concert tickets, clothing, a piñata and a picture made with hair from the patient’s pet.

More unusual foodstuffs given as gifts included: eggs, a goose, an onion, samosas, rhubarb, cucumbers, fresh cod, foie gras, cheese and a coconut.

Some 18% of respondents who received a gift had concerns about the patient’s motives for giving them a present. Of these, 22% (5) accepted the gift without raising concerns with the patient, 27% (6) accepted after discussion with the patient and 18% (4) did not accept the present.

MDU medicolegal adviser Dr Ellie Mein said: ‘In the MDU’s experience of providing medico-legal advice to members, accepting gifts from patients can sometimes present ethical issues. This is particularly the case when the patient’s motive for gift giving might be unclear or misconstrued, or when the gift is expensive.’

She advises doctors to ‘ensure the patient understands their medical care would not be affected in any way by the gift’ and ‘keep a record of these conversations, any correspondence and the reasons for accepting the gift, if they did so’.