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GPs must ‘exercise professional judgement’ over treating loved ones, GMC says

GPs can treat themselves and members of their family in an emergency, the GMC has said.

GPs should not ‘abandon’ common sense or risk patient safety by following GMC guidance, which states GPs should avoid treating themselves or loved ones wherever possible, GMC chief executive Niall Dickson wrote in a letter to Pulse.

He was writing in response to criticism from Bristol GP trainer and Pulse blogger, Dr Shaba Nabi, who said that the regulations ‘shackled’ GPs who feared that they would face disciplinary action for self-prescribing.

Mr Dickson explained that doctors must understand that objectivity was ‘essential’ for good care but also exercise their professional judgement.

He wrote: ‘‘Objectivity is essential to good clinical care – that is why our guidance does advise that, wherever possible, doctors should avoid giving medical treatment to themselves or anyone with whom they have a close personal relationship.’

‘That does not mean abandoning common sense or worse putting patient safety at risk. Of course doctors must exercise their professional judgement – and in an emergency it would obviously be wrong not to treat, if there were no alternative.’

He added that GPs should use the principles of ‘Good Medical Practice’ and other GMC guidance to determine the best course of action in a given situation, and they should ensure they document any action taken.