General practices have been advised to keep a register of gifts received from patients by the Medical Defence Union (MDU).
The organisation said gifts should not influence or be seen to influence care and many members of the MDU sought advice on the issue over Christmas and New Year.
It listed several examples of the types of cases that emerge in such situations.
In one, a GP received part of an elderly patient's silver collection but this was quickly followed by a complaint from disgruntled family members.
In another case, a practice manager opened a Christmas card from a patient to find a cheque written to him personally for £1,000, and a nurse received lingerie from a patient presented in a beribboned box.
Dr Brigid Simpson, MDU medico-legal adviser, said: "We issued specific advice for practice managers because they may be tasked with drawing up a practice policy on gifts or asked to keep a register, which is a contractual requirement for GPs."
The General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council advise doctors and nurses against accepting gifts that may affect or be seen to affect their judgement. The Institute of Healthcare Management issued similar advice, she added.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
Related MiP article: Presents and probity: ethical perspectives on gifts from patients
Did you receive gifts from patients over Christmas? Is this an ethical issue you struggle with? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"We collect a considerable number of gifts from patients but they are all in the biscuits/chocolates range. We collect them all together and draw lots so that everyone in the surgery receives something. Anything left over goes into the staff room. Seems fair to me since everyone in the practice contributes to patient care that they each receive a small token" – Name and address withheld