Intimate examinations or procedures can understandably be stressful and embarrassing for patients and health professionals must endeavour to ensure the patient’s comfort, dignity and privacy. Recent high profile local and national cases of alleged and/or proven inappropriate behaviour of health professionals towards patients highlighted the need to ensure both patients and professionals were ‘protected’.
An intimate examination or procedure is recognised as one involving the breast, genitalia or rectum. The GMC (2002) states that arrangements should be made for a chaperone to be present if intimate examinations or procedures are carried out in situations that may be open to misinterpretation.
Best Practice Guidelines
Prior to undertaking any clinical examination the health professional should:
- Explain why the examination is needed, giving the patient opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns.
- Explain what the examination will involve, reassuring the patient if they are likely to experience pain or discomfort.
- Ensure the patient’s consent is obtained before the examination and be prepared to stop if the patient requests. Consent must be documented.
- Offer a chaperone. If the patient does not want a chaperone the health professional must record that the offer was made and declined. If a chaperone is present the health professional should record that fact and make a note of the chaperone’s identity.
- If for justifiable reasons a chaperone cannot be offered the health professional should explain that to the patient, offer to delay the examination or procedure to a later date. The health professional should record the discussion and its outcome.
The practice will ensure that all members of staff receive the level of training necessary for them to fulfil their individual responsibilities identified in this policy.
Issue Date: May 2013
Reviewed: November 2019
Next Review: November 2020