There is a certain ambiguity surrounding chaperones and what exactly their purpose is. Below are common questions that Medical Protection receives about chaperones.
1. Can a family member act as a chaperone?
No. Whilst a family member may be present in the room for the examination if the patient wishes, the family member cannot fulfil the role of chaperone, even if acting as an interpreter for the patient. A separate chaperone should be offered.
2. Should a chaperone be offered where the nature of the examination changes during the consultation?
It may become apparent during the course of an examination that a chaperone is required before the examination continues. For example, if a patient examination reveals the necessity for a rectal examination. In that situation, before continuing with the examination, a chaperone should be offered. This may even need to be considered if the patient becomes uncomfortable with the usual clinical examination of body systems. Explanation as to what the physical examination entails, before any physical examination is commenced, may avoid this.
3. Do same-gender examinations require a chaperone?
In the context of allegations of improper conduct, the most common scenario is that a female patient makes an allegation against a male doctor. In Medical Protection’s experience, it is unusual for doctors to be the subject of allegations of improper conduct from patients of the same gender.
However, there have been such cases, and Medical Protection advises that a chaperone be offered for any intimate examination regardless of the patient’s gender.
The GMC guidance Maintaining Boundaries: Intimate Examinations and Chaperones reinforces this advice, by stating that a chaperone should be offered “whether or not you are the same gender as the patient” (paragraph 8).
- GMC (2013), Intimate Examinations and Chaperones
- GMC (2013), Maintaining a Professional Boundary Between You and Your Patient
- NHS Clinical Governance Support Team (2015), Guidance on the Role and Effective Use of Chaperones in Primary Continuity Care
- CQC (2016), Nigel's surgery 15: Chaperones
- Medical Protection factsheet, Chaperones
- RCN (2006), Chaperoning:The Role of the Nurse and the Rights of Patients
- RCOG (2002), Clinical Standards, Advice on Planning the Service in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
- RCR (2015), Intimate Examinations and the Use of Chaperones
- Department of Heath Committee of Inquiry report (2004), Independent Investigation into how the NHS handled allegations about the conduct of Clifford Ayling