Beware of patients’ over-generous presents

Most patients who say thank you to doctors with a gift choose to hand over a box of chocolates – but sometimes their choice is most unexpected.

Doctors report their more unusual presents have included a home-grown cabbage, dog toys and even tickets for a day out at a horse sanctuary.

Chocolates were received in the last year by 41% of 411 respondents to a survey conducted by the Medical Defence Union (MDU), followed by flowers and alcohol (10% each). 

These gifts from grateful patients are unlikely to cause their recipients problems, but doctors are being alerted to updated guidance from the GMC on managing conflicts of interest when receiving gifts, which comes into force at the end of January.

This is part of more detailed guidance on Good Medical Practice and it advises doctors not to accept any gift that might affect the way they treat patients and to consider the impact on their professional responsibilities. 

Dr Udvitha Nandasoma

Dr Udvitha Nandasoma, MDU head of advisory services, said: ‘Most clinicians (85%) had no concerns about motives for gift giving, with only a small number being concerned a gift may breach professional boundaries (7%) or that patients may be trying to influence a decision (6%). 

‘Nevertheless, healthcare professionals need to ensure gifts don’t raise ethical issues. We recommend members don’t accept expensive gifts and keep a register of all gifts received in case they need to justify them later. 

‘Nearly half of respondents (44%) said their workplace had a register, while two-fifths weren’t sure (40%) and a minority (16%) didn’t keep a record.’