- You are in a position of trust with your patients and their carers and you must not abuse that professional position.
- Sexual or inappropriate emotional relationships with current or former patients are likely to cross professional boundaries.
- You should seek advice from a colleague or professional body if you are in doubt about maintaining professional boundaries.
- You should also alert colleagues to the risks of unprofessional behaviour and report their actions if they are putting patients at risk.
- You must never abuse your professional position,238 for example by pursuing a sexual or inappropriate emotional relationship with a patient or their carer. This is because it can damage public trust in the optometric profession, and the inappropriate relationship may affect decisions you can make about a patient’s care.
- You are in a position of power and trust with your patients and you should maintain appropriate boundaries in how you communicate with your patients and their carers.
- You should not express personal beliefs, including political, religious and moral beliefs, to patients in ways that could exploit them if they are vulnerable or which might distress them.
- The definition of a carer in this section of guidance is a professional carer, family member, partner or friend who looks after the patient to the extent that they are part of their clinical experience, for example a parent who accompanies their child to hospital.
- If you are attracted to a patient you must not act on these feelings. If you are not sure whether this is affecting your professional judgement you should discuss this with a colleague or with your professional or representative body.
238 General Optical Council (2016) Standards of practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians [Accessed 6 Nov 2017]
- If a patient or their carer pursues a sexual or inappropriate emotional relationship with you, you may need to seek advice from a colleague or professional or representative body to decide on the best course of action.
- You should think carefully before pursuing a personal relationship with a former patient or carer. However consensual a relationship appears to be, if a complaint is made the onus will always be on you to show you have acted professionally and sought appropriate advice.239
- A sexual or personal relationship with a former patient or their carer may be inappropriate because:
- your former professional relationship may still influence the relationship
- the patient was vulnerable when they were under your care and may still be vulnerable, or
- you may still be caring for other members of the patient’s family.
- If you are aware that a colleague or other healthcare professional has breached personal or sexual boundaries with a patient or carer you should speak to the colleague, if possible, and alert them to the dangers of this unprofessional behaviour.
- If you are asked for advice by a colleague who feels attracted to a patient or carer, but has not acted inappropriately you are not required to inform anyone. You should remind your colleague that they must not abuse their professional position.
- If you consider a colleague is putting patients at risk you should consult the relevant professional, representative or regulatory body. See section on Raising concerns.