Within General Practice, the use of chaperones is widespread and is continuing to grow. Guidance has been created from the General Medical Council, Royal College of Nursing, Medical Protection Society and the CQC. Every practice should have a Chaperone Policy and it is important it is implemented fully.
The use of chaperones has many functions; it helps to ensure the patient is given emotional comfort and reassurance during a consultation or examination that can make them feel vulnerable; it provides protection for healthcare workers against unfounded allegations of improper behaviour; and also protects patients from any unacceptable behaviour from the healthcare professional. Sadly, examples of both types of these scenarios have been found within GP practices in the UK.
All guidance relating to chaperones makes it clear that a relative or friend of the patient is not an impartial observer, and so whilst their presence in some circumstances may ensure the patient is more comfortable, it does not remove the need for a formal chaperone.
It is also widely accepted that no matter the gender of the patient and the healthcare professional, the use of a chaperone should be offered. Female clinicians are still significantly less likely to offer a chaperone than male clinicians.
The chaperone policy should be clearly advertised through patient information leaflets, websites (where available) and on notice boards and best practice states that all patients should routinely be offered a chaperone during any consultation or procedure.
This offer should be made clear to the patient before any procedure, ideally at the time of booking the appointment. If a patient declines a chaperone, this should be recorded and documented.
The role of a chaperone in GP practices is often undertaken by non-clinical staff members, such as a receptionist. However, it is important to ensure such members of staff have undertaken training to ensure they are clear about their role. Training should include:
- What is meant by the term chaperone.
- What is an ‘intimate examination’.
- Why chaperones need to be present.
- The rights of the patient.
- Their role and responsibilities.
- Policy and mechanism for raising concerns.
If you need chaperone training for your staff, then please contact us. We can provide face to face or online training to ensure your staff are ready to take on the role of a chaperone.
Written by Sophie McCracken 3rd August 2017