Doctors should extend 'sunshine rule' to patient gifts


For immediate release: Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Doctors are urged to exercise caution when offered gifts from patients or pharmaceutical companies, says UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS.

The government recently announced the introduction of the “sunshine rule”, meaning that doctors and other NHS staff will have to declare gifts, payments or hospitality received from pharmaceutical companies.

From next year it will be mandatory for NHS staff to keep a register of hospitality and gifts. Any member of staff who fails to declare such information will face sanctions and disciplinary action under the Bribery Act 2010.

MDDUS medical adviser Dr Naeem Nazem believes transparency and caution is also required when it comes to accepting gifts from patients.

“The new government measures are in relation to gifts from pharmaceutical representatives and medical device makers. However, we would urge all doctors to adopt the spirit of the legislation and also keep a register of gifts from patients,” says Dr Nazem.

“In the interests of being open and honest and to avoid any perception of bias, all practices should already have a policy on accepting gifts. As part of that policy, there should be a gift register which can be made available to the clinical commissioning group (or health board in Scotland) at their request.”

The Bribery Act makes it a criminal offence to offer financial or other advantages with the intention of inducing a person to perform an “action improperly”. The potential consequences of such action include an unlimited fine and up to ten years in jail.

“In many cases it may be entirely reasonable to accept a small token or recognition of gratitude from a patient, but there are times when a gift can represent something more,” says Dr Nazem.

“Doctors should take care to avoid even the perception of influence or favouritism towards a patient who has given them a gift. They should consider carefully if by accepting a gift, they are altering their relationship with the patient.

“It is important for doctors to discuss any gift they are given with their colleagues and to declare them in accordance with local policy. They should also make it clear to patients that gifts are not expected and do not influence the level of clinical care provided.

“The offer of larger gifts can be particularly uncomfortable for doctors and it is probably best to try and discourage these without causing the patient offence. Doctors should carefully consider the size of any gift, the patient’s potential motive and any possible impact on their professional judgement.

“Further to keeping a register of gifts, it is advisable to keep a record of any discussions related to a gift and to include its actual or estimated value.”

The GMC advises doctors not to “encourage patients to give, lend or bequeath money or gifts that will directly or indirectly benefit you.”

GMC guidance Good Medical Practice also states: “You must not ask for or accept any inducement, gift or hospitality that may affect or be seen to affect the way you prescribe for, treat or refer patients.”


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK.

For further information on MDDUS go to



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