Chaperones

Introduction

This policy is designed to protect both patients and staff from abuse or allegations of abuse and to assist patients to make an informed choice about their examinations and consultations.

Guidelines

Clinicians (male and female) should consider whether an intimate or personal examination of the patient (either male or female) is justified, or whether the nature of the consultation poses a risk of misunderstanding. The clinician should:

  • Give the patient a clear explanation of what the examination will involve.
  • Always adopt a professional and considerate manner – be careful with humour as a way of relaxing a nervous situation as it can easily be misinterpreted.
  • Always ensure that the patient is provided with adequate privacy to undress and dress.
  • Ensure that a suitable sign is clearly on display in each consulting or treatment room offering the chaperone service if required.

This should remove the potential for misunderstanding.

However, there will still be times when either the clinician, or the patient, feels uncomfortable, and it would be appropriate to consider using a chaperone. Patients who request a chaperone should never be examined without a chaperone being present. If necessary, where a chaperone is not available, the consultation / examination should be rearranged for a mutually convenient time when a chaperone can be present.

Complaints and claims have not been limited to male doctors with female patients – there are many examples of alleged homosexual assault by female and male doctors. Consideration should also be given to the possibility of a malicious accusation by a patient. There may be rare occasions when a chaperone is needed for a home visit. The following procedure should still be followed.

Who can act as a chaperone?

Where suitable clinical staff members are not available deferral of the examination should be considered.

The Nursing team or other clinician should only be considered for the first port of call for chaperone duties.

There should always be a clinical member of staff in the building. In an unforeseen emergency situation non-clinical staff can act in this capacity, however the patient must agree to the presence of a non-clinician in the examination, and be at ease with this.

Non-clinical staff members are not expected to undertake this role and can refuse.

Confidentiality

  • The chaperone should only be present for the examination itself, and most discussion with the patient should take place while the chaperone is not present.
  • Patients should be reassured that all practice staff understand their responsibility not to divulge confidential information.

View the latest GMC guidelines for intimate examinations

Procedure

  • The clinician will contact Reception to request a chaperone.
  • Reception will try to find one from the Nursing team or see if another clinician is available. If no clinician is available someone from the reception team who has taken the chaperone training will attend the appointment.
  • The clinician will record in the notes that the chaperone is present, and identify the chaperone.
  • Where no chaperone is available the examination will not take place – the patient should not normally be permitted to dispense with the chaperone once a desire to have one present has been expressed.
  • The chaperone will enter the room discreetly and remain in room until the clinician has finished the examination.
  • The chaperone will normally attend inside the curtain at the head of the examination couch and watch the procedure.
  • To prevent embarrassment, the chaperone should not enter into conversation with the patient or GP unless requested to do so, or make any mention of the consultation afterwards.
  • The chaperone may make a record in the patient’s notes after examination. The record will state that there were no problems, or give details of any concerns or incidents that occurred.
  • The patient can refuse a chaperone, and if so this must be recorded in the patient’s medical record.