Expert advice

Legal advice: Can I accept gifts from patients?

What the NMC code says about nurses accepting gifts, plus how it might be interpreted
A nurse on a ward receiving a patient's gift of flowers

Is it okay to accept a gift from a patient? Here's what the NMC code says, plus how it might be interpreted

There are several factors to be considered before accepting a gift from a patient, namely employer policy and the Nursing and Midwifery Council code, as well as the timing and type of gift.

The first thing to do is consult your employers policy on accepting gifts. If the policy deems it acceptable to receive personal gifts, then proceed to the next step.

What does your workplace policy say about gifts?

However, if it categorically states no gifts can be accepted, then doing so would be a breach of contract. Sometimes, personal gifts are not permitted, but gifts to a ward or department are allowed.

Consider the Code and what it says about receiving

Is it okay to accept a gift from a patient? Here's what the NMC code says, plus how it might be interpreted

A nurse on a ward receiving a patient's gift of flowers
Picture: iStock

There are several factors to be considered before accepting a gift from a patient, namely employer policy and the Nursing and Midwifery Council code, as well as the timing and type of gift.

The first thing to do is consult your employer’s policy on accepting gifts. If the policy deems it acceptable to receive personal gifts, then proceed to the next step.

What does your workplace policy say about gifts?

However, if it categorically states no gifts can be accepted, then doing so would be a breach of contract. Sometimes, personal gifts are not permitted, but gifts to a ward or department are allowed.

Consider the Code and what it says about receiving gifts. In paragraph 21, under the heading ‘Uphold your position as a registered nurse or midwife’, it states that nurses ‘must refuse all but the most trivial gifts, favours or hospitality, as accepting them could be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment’.

On one hand, this is helpful, as the Code does allow nurses to accept gifts. On the other, it does not define what a ‘trivial’ gift would be.

The Code also notes that gifts might be given in an attempt to seek preferential treatment. If this is ever a possibility the gift should be refused. However, a gift given as a genuine thank you from someone leaving care is less problematic.

Gifts for nurses that may be deemed unacceptable

Gifts of money to an individual should be avoided. At the very least, they need to be reported to or recorded with managers. Some employers and organisations have a policy that monetary gifts be put into a specific fund.

Other types of problematic gifts may include those of a personal nature, such as lingerie.

An unsolicited gift of chocolates or suchlike to a ward or department is unlikely to be an issue. However, accepting a personal gift needs to be carefully considered so as not to compromise a nurse’s position.


Marc Cornock, qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at The Open UniversityMarc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at The Open University
@Academiclawyer2

 


This article was originally published in August 2016


More from Marc Cornock

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs