While crossing these boundaries is not always a disciplinary matter, they may call into question your professionalism.Boundary violations can have devastating consequences. Sexual misconduct can create a lot of public and media attention and this can have severe repercussions for your career, your working relationships and your family.Trust is therefore essential: the GMC describes it as the foundation of the doctor-patient partnership.“Patients should be able to trust that their doctor will behave professionally towards them during consultations and not see them as a potential sexual partner,” it says.
But it tells them they can date former patients, as long as they give ‘careful consideration’ to certain factors.‘Although it would not be possible to specify a length of time after which it is acceptable to pursue a relationship with a former patient, it is reasonable to expect that the more recently a professional relationship ended the less likely it is to be appropriate to begin a personal relationship with the patient.’ Doctors should only start a relationship with a former patient if they have used their 'professional judgement' to decide if it is appropriate and are still banned from 'improper' relationships with current patients (file picture) Some senior GPs, however, have previously warned that such relationships are always ‘flawed’.Dr Surendra Kumar, a GP who practises in Widnes, Cheshire, said: ‘Consider the powers of the doctor.This is the only profession of which a member can ask a person to take their clothes off and find the request usually met with few questions and no resistance.’But Dr Tony Grewal, a senior GP who practises in West London, said the watchdog ‘should not limit the capacity of two consenting adults to explore a relationship’.But be careful that you don’t cross those professional boundaries into more dangerous territory.Boundary violations can range from the obvious – engaging in sexual activity with a patient – to other transgressions, such as relationships with someone close to a patient, peer-to-peer relationships or those with other health care practitioners. TASSC 70, the Supreme Court of Tasmania quashed a decision of the Psychologists Registration Board of Tasmania to suspend a psychologist for 6 months for entering into a sexual relationship with a former patient fewer than 2 years after the end of the therapeutic relationship. The appropriate test must be whether a sexual relationship would exploit the client or put the health of the client at risk.