'Half of GPs think they should be allowed to have sex with patients'

Half of family doctors want the freedom to have a relationship with a patient, according to a new survey.

One in six GPs thinks it is acceptable to have sex with one of their own patients, says the survey, while 48 per cent think it is OK to do so if the patient changes doctor.

Although there are very strict rules to prevent doctors exploiting those in their care, these findings suggest that many GPs would like to see the rules relaxed.

The poll of 282 doctors, carried out by GPs' magazine Pulse, shows that General Medical Council guidelines do not fit with the attitudes of practitioners.
When asked whether they would support a doctor's relationship with a patient, so long as the patient moved practices, only 28 per cent said they would not, with nearly half saying that they would.



Although the majority of GPs said they thought a doctor should not have sex with his own patient, 16 per cent thought that this would be acceptable.

Two per cent of those polled admitted to having had sex with a patient registered at their practice.

The GMC currently forbids doctors from having sexual relationships with their patients. It says that relationships with former patients are usually 'inappropriate' unless they arise from 'social contact'.

Guidelines also prevent GPs from having sex with former patients if the patient could be considered 'vulnerable', or if 'the professional relationship is being abused'.

Dr Tony Grewal, a GP in west London, defended the right of doctors to start relationships with former patients. He said, 'An absolute ban on sexual relationships with patients or former patients is an unfair limitation on the right to pursue happiness for doctors and patients alike.'

He added that a new set of guidelines was needed which 'maintains the necessary safeguards for the vulnerable against exploitation or coercion, but gives a framework for those who wish to develop proper relationships.'

15 doctors were struck off the medical register in 2009 for breaking regulations on relationships - more than those punished for any other offence.