Performance Matters - Treating Friends and Family
The LMC is regularly involved in representing and supporting doctors who have been identified as having “performance” issues. The LMC has identified a number of themes which recur, and this regular feature will highlight these, so that our members can avoid these pitfalls.
Can I provide advice or prescribe medication to family and friends?
As clinicians, we want to help. We want our friends and family to remain healthy. Sometimes, we may be asked to advise, prescribe, or access results for family members of friends. While we want to support our family and friends, we should encourage them to contact their GP for advice which will also support their future appropriate access and understanding of the system. GMC guidance Good Medical Practice, states: “Wherever possible avoid providing medical care to yourself or anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship.”
We should not use our professional access to view and or disclose the results of tests and investigations on behalf of friends or family even though you may feel you are being helpful.
While the law still allows prescribing for friends and family, GMC guidance warns against this for the following reason:
If a doctor prescribes for someone they are in a close personal relationship with, the lack of independent assessment may lead to them being pressured by the person, or by the situation, to prescribe inappropriately and can mean that treating doctors don’t have access to information necessary for the patient’s ongoing treatment.
The lack of full medical record may also mean that you are unaware of potential serious past drug reactions or current drug interactions which may put your friend or family at risk of further harm.
The above does not mean that you cannot provide an acute prescription when all other routes are unavailable. However, you should ensure that you follow the guidance (i) are ready to justify your decision if challenged and can show that your actions were in the patient’s best interests.
GMC guidance states that if you do prescribe for someone close to you – which would include a member of staff – you must tell their GP (and others treating the patient, where relevant) what you have prescribed and any other information necessary for continuing care. You must have also the patient’s consent to share that information (ii)
GMC state that a serious or persistent failure to follow the guidance in Good medical practice and the explanatory guidance, and where patients are – or confidence in doctors is – put at risk, will call into question a doctor’s fitness to practise.