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GPs can pray with patients - as long as it's 'tactful'

Published: 28th July 2011

New guidance for GPs on praying for patients has been released by the Medical Defence Union (MDU) - with backing from the General Medical Council (GMC) and one of the country's leading doctors.

The guidance quotes an official from the GMC suggesting that a 'tactful' offer to pray for patients could be appropriate:

'Nothing in the GMC's guidance Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice precludes doctors from praying with their patients… It must be tactful, so that the patient can decline without embarrassment - because, while some may welcome the suggestion, others may regard it as inappropriate.' Jane O'Brien, Assistant Director for Standards and Fitness to Practise.

The GMC has told a magazine for GPs, called Pulse, that it still stands by the statement, made in 2009.

And the news is being welcomed by one of the country's leading doctors.Dr. Clare Gerada, the Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has tweeted: 'Good that sense is prevailing at last.' (@clarercgp)

Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of CMF said: 'We welcome this clear endorsement by the GMC and MDU of 'tactful' offers of prayer by GPs coming, as it does, shortly after the GMC's recent confirmation of the appropriateness of sensitive faith discussions with patients. Our concern is that doctors will feel free to practise whole person medicine and not shrink back from discussing faith issues sensitively when and if it is appropriate to do. Addressing spiritual issues when they impact on a patient's health is part of good patient-centred care.' Read Peter Saunders' blog post on this, here.

The latest advice follows the case of Dr Richard Scott, who made national headlines in May when he said he would formally reject an official warning from the GMC for discussing his faith with a patient. Dr Scott has revealed he received, and rejected, the official warning, and now 'fully expects' to face a public hearing.

For further information:

Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
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