BMA guidance

Doctor patient relationship

Guidance on understanding the doctor-patient relationship

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 26 April 2023
Topics: Ethics
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What you'll get from this guide

  • An understanding of key factors to consider when facing common dilemmas that arise in the doctor-patient relationship
  • Guidance on good practice and ethical standards
  • Legal principles relating to the doctor-patient relationship


How to use this guide

This toolkit will provide guidance on the key legal and ethical considerations when you are faced with common dilemmas that can arise in the doctor-patient relationship. It is based on the type of questions we receive from our members.

It does not aim to provide definitive answers for every situation but to identify the key factors that need to be considered.

All sections refer to useful guidance from bodies such as the General Medical Council (GMC), BMA, and health departments, which should be used in conjunction with the guidance.

  • The doctor-patient relationship
  • Patient autonomy and choice
  • Communication and honesty
  • Maintaining professional boundaries
  • Trust and mutual respect
  • Conscientious objection and expressing personal belief
  • Care at a distance
  • Doctors’ responsibilities
  • Patients’ responsibilities
  • Breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship
  • Non-typical relationships and dual obligations