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GPs advised not to ignore ‘inappropriate’ patient behaviour

GPs advised not to ignore ‘inappropriate’ patient behaviour

GPs should seek help if a patient makes an ‘inappropriate’ advance, according to new GMC guidance on reporting unacceptable sexual behaviour in the workplace.

The GMC’s updated guidance on maintaining personal and professional boundaries, which came into force at the end of January, advises that if a patient behaves in a sexual way towards a doctor, they ‘should tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable and ask them to stop’, if they feel safe to do so.

The guidance also gives examples of unacceptable sexual behaviour including groping, sexual comments, jokes, innuendo or banter, suggestive looks or leering, a person asking intrusive questions about the person’s private or sex life and sending sexually explicit emails, text messages or posts on social media.

In a recent survey by the MDU on receiving gifts from patients, around 15% of the 411 MDU members who responded said they ‘had concerns about the reason for gift giving, including that the gift was inappropriate’.

Some of those responding reported receiving cards and flowers on Valentine’s day from patients, while others were offered and declined perfume and lingerie. 

MDU deputy head of advisory services Dr Catherine Wills said: ‘It is not uncommon for doctors to be in a situation where they feel uncomfortable because a patient is behaving in an inappropriate way towards them.

‘This can range from suggestive comments and inappropriate gifts or Valentine’s cards to intrusive questions and in some cases, sexual propositions.

‘None of this is acceptable for healthcare professionals to face in the workplace and they should take action to prevent such behaviour from escalating.’

Dr Wills also said that doctors should ask patients to stop inappropriate behaviour when they recognise it.

She added: ‘If this doesn’t work, doctors should excuse themselves from the encounter and seek help. They should report the incident in line with workplace policies.

‘We would also advise doctors to keep a record of what happened and to get support from colleagues and your medical defence organisation.’

The MDU also advised doctors not to accept expensive gifts and to keep a register of any gifts they do receive in case they need to justify them at a later date. 

From the end of last month, updated GMC guidance on managing conflicts of interest also came into force as part of the updates to Good Medical Practice (GMP). 



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

John Graham Munro 13 February, 2024 9:18 pm

Never happened to me——-a hug maybe