Dr Katie Smith is an ST2 in public health and in August 2015 finished a year as a Clinical Leadership Fellow with the GMC. She writes here on the question of self-prescribing and treating family, friends and colleagues. The GMC has published a helpful resource on prescribing to support doctors
For me, my decision not to prescribe for friends and family is quite straightforward. I would hate to write them a quick prescription, with the intent of helping them out, only to later find my assessment was wrong. The risk of false reassurance, particularly at home where I don’t have access to basic equipment and tests, is not one I am willing to take. I would sooner accept that my friends and family don’t get much ‘use’ out of me being a doctor than cope with the thought that I had failed to spot something crucial or done something to harm them.
There is also the question of prescribing for myself. I know that many doctors see self-prescribing as a benefit to the NHS – they don’t have to take time away from their role to attend an appointment which could be given to another patient – and I can understand this thinking. But I also have concerns about what it means in terms of equity. Notwithstanding the issues of self-regulation, and the potential blurring of boundaries when we begin to prescribe for ourselves and our families when we cannot be objective, I also think it introduces a situation whereby those with the ability to prescribe don’t experience health-care in the same way as any other patient.
While you could argue that it saves the NHS time, realistically it also saves our time. It is much more convenient to self-prescribe than to try and make an appointment, wait for the appointment, travel to and attend that appointment and then go to the pharmacy. To choose instead to self-prescribe somehow suggests that we don’t need to bother with that rigmarole because we are doctors. If I am seeking medical care or treatment then in that context I am a patient too, irrespective of my medical training. If I expect other patients to go through that process then I feel I should also be willing to do it myself.
Read the GMC’s guidance on doctors prescribing to themselves or those close to them. We have also published a helpful resource on prescribing to support doctors
Dr Katie Smith is an ST2 in public health and and in August 2015 finished a year as a Clinical Leadership Fellow with the GMC