Doctors have been warned not to respond to flirtatious approaches from patients on social networking sites like Facebook.
The Medical Defence Union said it was aware of a number of cases where patients have attempted to proposition doctors by sending them an unsolicited message on Facebook or similar sites.
The medical defence body said it would be “wholly inappropriate” to respond to a patient making an advance in such a way.
Dr Emma Cuzner, MDU medico-legal adviser, said the pitfalls posed to doctors using social networking sites and inadvertently breaching patient confidentiality had already been well documented but the dangers of patients using the sites to approach doctors were less well publicised.
She added: “Some doctors have told the MDU they feel it would be rude not to reply, if only to politely refuse, but given that this is not a professional route of communication, any correspondence of this sort would clearly stray outside the doctor/patient relationship.”
Dr Cuzner said the MDU was advising its members about the importance of keeping relationships with patients on a professional footing and said doctors could face an investigation by the General Medical Council if they were accused of overstepping the boundary.
In an anonymised case highlighted by the MDU a female GP was asked out for a drink by a patient as she left the surgery. When she declined the patient contacted the doctor via Facebook and sent her a bunch of her favourite flowers which he had found out about from her freely available Facebook page.
The MDU said it helped the GP deal with the patient’s advances and suggested she considered using some of the security and privacy settings on the site.