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Three quarters of doctors received ‘thank you’ gifts in last year

by Eliza Parr
22 January 2024

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Three quarters of doctors received gifts and ‘thank you’ messages from patients over the past year, according to a medical defence organisation.

In a survey conducted last month of over 400 doctors, of which GPs and GP trainees made up almost a third, the MDU found that 85% had ‘no concerns about motives for gift giving’. 

Less than one in 10 doctors were concerned that gifts from patients may ‘breach professional boundaries’. 

But the MDU advised doctors not to accept expensive gifts and for practices 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 January, updated GMC guidance on managing conflicts of interest will come into force as part of the updates to Good Medical Practice (GMP). 

This states that doctors should not accept ‘an unsolicited gift’ unless it is ‘of minimal value’, defined as gifts such as flowers, fruit, sweets or cake.

‘You must not ask for – or accept – any fee, gift, hospitality or any other incentive that may affect (or be seen to affect) the way you prescribe for, advise, treat, refer, or commission services for patients,’ the guidance says.

MDU head of advisory services Dr Udvitha Nandasoma said: ‘It’s heartening to know that patients are choosing to show appreciation for the care they’ve received from healthcare professionals. 

‘With cost of living pressures, doctors don’t expect to receive gifts or thanks and most explained they get as much satisfaction from doing a good job.’

Nevertheless, healthcare professionals need to ensure gifts don’t raise ethical issues, he added.

‘We recommend members don’t accept expensive gifts and keep a register of all gifts received in case they need to justify them later.’

Other findings from the MDU survey:

  • Chocolates were the most common gifts, received by 41% of respondents, followed by flowers and alcohol (10% each)
  • 7% of doctors were concerned a gift may breach professional boundaries
  • 6% were concerned that patients may be trying to influence a decision
  • 44% said their workplace kept a register of gifts, 40% were not sure, and 16% did not keep a record
  • 35% of doctors said gifts were less likely now than before the pandemic

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title Pulse