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Half of GPs back change in rules on sex with patients

Exclusive Half of GPs believe doctors should be allowed to have a sexual relationship with a patient on their practice's list if the patient moves to another practice, a Pulse survey has revealed.

In our survey of 282 GPs, one in six also said they believed there could be circumstances where it is appropriate to have a sexual relationship with a patient even if they were on their practice list.


The survey, carried out as part of our investigation into the ethics of general practice for Dr Helena McKeown's guest editor issue next week, found that 48% would support a GP's decision to enter into a sexual relationship with a patient, as long as they registered with another practice.

In contrast, 28% of GPs said they would not support such a decision, while the remaining 24% said they were unsure.

Some 16% said there could be circumstances where it was appropriate for a GP to engage in a sexual relationship with a patient on their practice's list, but 78% said it would be inappropriate in any case.

And while the vast majority of GPs (97%) said they had never had a sexual relationship with a patient on their practice's list, 2% - seven GP respondents - said they had.

GMC guidance currently forbids GPs to have sexual relationships with current patients, and says that sexual relationships with former patients are in many cases ‘inappropriate'.

A relationship with a former patient could only be permissible ‘if circumstances arise in which social contact with a former patient leads to the possibility of a sexual relationship beginning', and even then only if the patient is not considered ‘vulnerable' and the GP is certain ‘the professional relationship is not being abused'. 

Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs but speaking in a personal capacity as a GP in Hillingdon, west London, said professional guidance from the GMC ‘should not limit the capacity of two consenting adults to explore a relationship'.

In a debate in this week's Pulse, Dr Grewal said: ‘An absolute ban on sexual relationships with patients or former patients is an unfair limitation on the right to pursue happiness for doctors and patients alike.'

‘We need new, authoritative public guidance which acknowledges the changes of the last 20 years, maintains the necessary safeguards for the vulnerable against exploitation or coercion, but gives a framework for those who wish to develop proper relationships.'

This article is from next week's issue of Pulse that is guest-edited by Dr Helena McKeown. For more from her guest editor issue, click here