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Practice Matters Issue 5: February 2014

Whilst it is right to offer patients advice and support, there may be circumstances where a patient starts to rely excessively on contact with you. It may be very flattering if a patient tells you that you are “the only doctor that understands”, but remember there may be a hidden danger within these words.

In this issue of Practice Matters we share a case where a locum GP received unwanted attention from a patient. Remember that although you are a doctor, you and your family are entitled to the same privacy and protection as other people. It can be extremely distressing to be the subject of unwanted attention and stalking behaviour from current or former patients.

The key to dealing with this scenario is to recognise early the signs that a patient is starting to become over-reliant on you. If this is the case consider asking them to attend another GP within the practice for a second opinion. The GMC says if a patient pursues an improper emotional relationship with you, you should treat them politely and considerately and try to re-establish a professional boundary. If you have concerns in this area, contact MPS for advice.

Remaining professionally detached is part of being a good GP, but it is not easy. In ‘The Drama Triangle’, GP and patient safety lead Dr Andrew Tresidder explores how to maintain professional detachment in a consultation drawing on psychological concepts such as the Drama Triangle, the Four Agreements and the Seat of Power. Dr Tresidder says that as practitioners we must avoid allowing patients to transfer responsibility for their health to us, or risk being persecuted when things go wrong.

It can be extremely distressing to be the subject of unwanted attention and stalking behaviour from current or former patients

He writes that in life everything is always changing – if we do our best, whatever the circumstances, we express ourselves with integrity and avoid self-criticism and regret.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Practice Matters and would be interested to hear your comments, as well as any topics you would like us to feature in future editions. Please email sara.dawson@mps.org.uk.

Dr Richard Stacey
Editor-in-chief and MPS medicolegal adviser

Disclaimer: All information is correct at the time of publishing (February 2014)
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