Cash, a trout, Rolex watch and garden hose among gifts offered to NHS staff, Nursing Standard reveals

Cash in envelopes, a trout, a Rolex watch and a garden hose are among the gifts offered to NHS staff, a Nursing Standard investigation has uncovered.

Cash in envelopes, a trout, a Rolex watch and a garden hose are among the gifts offered to NHS staff, a Nursing Standard investigation has uncovered

Rolex watch
Photo: iStock

Wedding gifts, shop vouchers, two jars of jam and a £200 donation to a member of staff’s relative’s surgery were all among presents that were accepted in the past five years.

The wide of range offerings were included in data from the gift and hospitality registers of more than 100 UK trusts and health boards provided to Nursing Standard under a freedom of information request.

Staff are told to refuse any gifts, favours or hospitality that might be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment 

Gift etiquette

Many of the trusts said staff were not allowed to receive any cash payments although could accept gifts with a ‘low intrinsic value’ such as diaries, pens, chocolates and biscuits.

Some suggest a limit, such as only accepting gifts with a value of up to about £20 or £25.

Items of value above these generally have to be recorded on the register, although many items with values as low as £2 were also frequently recorded by diligent nurses between 2011 and 2016.

Unusual presents 

Perfume, biscuits, flowers, chocolates and cakes are among frequently received gifts recorded by nurses and other members of staff as tokens of appreciation from patients and their families.

At Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, a staff nurse received £50 which was placed in an envelope and left anonymously in a staff room. It was accepted as the nurse had ‘no opportunities to decline,’ according to the trust's gifts and hospitality log.

A more unusual gift was at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, which reported that one member of staff received £200 towards their brother’s operation in the Philippines. A spokesperson for the trust said the money was accepted.

Two wedding gifts with a combined value of £50 were received and accepted from a patient, and a patient’s family in July 2012 by a member of staff at NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

Japanese delegates who toured South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust in 2015 donated six scarves, three origami sets and £100, which was put towards a training budget.

At the same trust in 2012, seven Christmas cards were received at one unit from the parent of a patient, five with £100 and two with £300 in cash inside. All were declined.

The Rolex watch, which was received in 2004, was returned by Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Why declaring a gift is important

The Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct states that nurses must refuse all ‘but the most trivial of gifts’ as accepting could be seen as an attempt to gain preferential treatment.

Marc Cornock, senior lecturer in the Open University faculty of health and social care, urged nurses to think carefully when offered gifts, and to check if they need to be recorded even if they are turned down.

‘A failure to declare a gift could result in disciplinary action being taken against the nurse.’ Dr Cornock said.

‘Refusing a gift from a patient can be very difficult, as it may offend the patient or parent offering it. It is necessary to do so tactfully so as a not to damage a relationship with a patient, for instance explaining that you cannot accept the gift but that you appreciate the thought.’


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