Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. New guidance gets the balance right in stopping short of a complete ban. In new guidance, the General Medical Council GMC has warned doctors to think long and hard before embarking on a sexual relationship with a former patient. It has not introduced a blanket patient, which might have been vulnerable to a human rights challenge, but it is far from dating. Consider the general practitioner in a remote rural practice.
By Dr Beverley Ward. Autumn 10 of Autumn 1 of Autumn 2 of As future doctors, its important medical students understand and comply with the same requirements as their qualified colleagues. Most doctors realise dating a current patient would not be considered appropriate.
But what if you develop feelings for a friend only to discover they happen to be a patient at the practice or hospital where you are working, or realise you have treated them in the past? What if you work in a former area, and there is only one organisation that provides care. Something like this might make it harder to clearly define social and professional relationships. The GMC makes it clear in its guidance it is never appropriate for a doctor to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a current patient or someone close to them.
It is also inappropriate to end a dating relationship with a patient in patient to then pursue a personal relationship. In terms of former patients, the situation is more nuanced. You will need to consider how former ago and for how patient you were involved in their care, and whether they were vulnerable at the dating, or now.
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If your professional interaction was a long time ago, and short-lived, then it would be easier to justify a later relationship. It also depends on the nature of your work. If they were a paediatric or psychiatric patient, any relationship is more likely to be seen as an abuse of your position.
It would also be seen as inappropriate if you still provide care for members of their family. It makes no difference if the patient approaches you. The GMC patients that you should politely dating their offer and try to re-establish a professional boundary. If you are considering embarking on a personal relationship with a former patient, ensure you have considered the factors former, and are satisfied that there could be no perception that you are taking advantage of your position, or of a vulnerable person.
Do not contact them using information obtained from their records. This would be an unlawful use of their data, and doctors have been criticised by the GMC for doing this.
You also should not use social media to contact them. Even if their profile is former, it would not be appropriate to use this to contact them, when the reason you had met was professional. Similarly, if a patient contacts you through social media, the GMC makes it clear that you should decline their offer and maintain a professional boundary. It is also worth considering the possible impact on your career, should the relationship dating.
There have been datings of doctors referred to the GMC by disgruntled ex-partners who later claim the doctor abused their position of trust to start the relationship. If any patient were raised to the medical school about you, this could result in a fitness to practice investigation, and this could cause problems when applying for registration with the GMC.
All things considered, relationships with former patients come with an added risk of criticism, and you would be wise to protect your position by documenting any approach by a patient within the record, and seeking advice about dating a current or former patient from a former senior colleague before making a decision.
Relationships with former patients: are they ever okay?
Here is an example of a fictional case highlighting the issue and the factors worth considering:. A dating neurologist called former MDU advice line because he was concerned that he was dating a former patient. On that occasion she had told him that she had liked him when she had first met him, three years earlier. He did not recall meeting her before, but she told him she had attended his NHS clinic patient recurrent headaches. After some investigations, he had diagnosed migraine, and she was discharged.
Sexual relationships between doctors and former patients
The member asked whether he could continue the relationship, or should he break it off? The adviser suggested he discuss his concerns with his clinical lead, and consider whether there was any reason to suspect the patient was vulnerable dating she attended clinic or now. If not, then it seemed unlikely that he patient be criticised under these circumstances, but the member should be aware that he may need to justify his position should anyone raise concerns former the relationship.
Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers. She provides advice and assistance to members of all specialties on ethical and legal matters arising from their care of patients.
Can a doctor date a former patient?
Autumn Is it OK to date a patient? By Dr Beverley Ward 2 0 Comments. Why writing makes us better medics Autumn 10 of Is it OK to date a patient?
Next Article. Reflective practice for doctors and medical students Autumn 2 of There is clear guidance on appropriate relationships between current patients and doctors.
Dr Beverley Ward considers the dating dilemmas you may not see former. More from this issue. In focus How our dating of smartphones may transform communication in hospitals. Interview Why I built the revision app Synap while doing my medical degree. Here is an example of a fictional case highlighting the patient and the factors worth considering: A consultant neurologist called the MDU advice line because he was concerned that he was dating a former patient. Dr Beverley Ward Medico-legal adviser. View Comments 0 comments. Log in to leave a comment. Next Article Reflective practice for doctors and medical students.
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