This is an area which is governed by both contractual and ethical perspectives. Both emphasise the need for transparency and accountability when considering accepting donations from patients.
The requirement to register gifts was introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2001. The current regulations apply to both performers and contractors and require individual GPs and contractors to keep a register of gifts from patients or their relatives which have a value of £100 or more unless the gift is unconnected with the provision of services. Primary care trusts can request sight of such registers; the register itself must include certain information such as the name of the donor, nature of the gift and its estimated value. These conditions are detailed in full at appendix A.
Although these regulations only cover England, equivalent sets of regulations operate in the other UK countries. Full references are available on request.
In addition to registering gifts, GPs may also need to seek tax advice about declaring large gifts or bequests for tax purposes.
The key ethical issues revolve around the impact of potential or actual gifts on the objectivity and professionalism of the doctor-patient relationship.
This is confirmed by the GMC's Good Practice Guidelines which state that:
- you must not encourage patients to give, lend or bequeath money or gifts that will directly or indirectly benefit you
- you must not put pressure on patients or their families to make donations to other people or organisations.
If you have any queries in relation to this issue, please contact BMA in the first instance.
Read the relevent legislation