Consensual relationship impacting team opportunities
Dr Clark is a senior A&E registrar and Teaching Fellow responsible for organising training for junior doctors in the department. She regularly mentors Dr Lee, a foundation doctor.
After a period of successful mentoring, Dr Clark and Dr Lee enter a consensual romantic relationship. This becomes well known by other staff in the department who witness the pair flirting and touching whilst at work.
Dr Clark frequently invites Dr Lee to carry out workplace-based assessments and supervised procedures but seems reluctant to encourage other trainees to get involved. This causes resentment amongst team members, with one core trainee complaining that they are struggling to meet their portfolio requirements for core procedures, as Dr Clark excludes them from certain cases in favour of Dr Lee.
Guidance and advice:
Dr Clark and Dr Lee
- Doctors must treat colleagues with kindness, courtesy and respect. They should be aware of how your behaviour may influence others within and outside the team (Good medical practice, paragraphs 48 and 53). This includes maintaining appropriate professional boundaries and making sure that the culture of the team they are part of is safe for colleagues and patients.
- Consensual and reciprocated sexual attraction and relationships between colleagues are not sexual misconduct; however, it is important that professional boundaries are maintained in the workplace. And the relationship – or end of the relationship – has no adverse impact on clinical practice or team environments (Maintaining personal and professional boundaries, paragraph 18 and 19).
If you experience this:
- You should be aware that organisations must make sure that work undertaken by doctors in training provides learning opportunities and feedback on performance, and gives an appropriate breadth of clinical experience. (Promoting Excellence: Standard for medical education and training, R1.15)
- Raise concerns if the behaviour of a colleague amounts to a denial of patient’s or colleague’s rights (Good medical practice, paragraph 58)
- Our ethical hub pages on Speaking up provides tools and advice to support you in raising concerns. This includes signposting to organisations such as the Freedom to Speak up Guardians, who can help healthcare workers to speak up about anything that gets in the way of patient care or affects working life.