In most cases where the flirtation is sexualised it is likely to be a FTP issue, sometimes even non-sexualised minor incidents can amount to serious misconduct.

Dr C admitted he engaged in an inappropriate emotional relationship with a patient through an exchange of texts and emails of an intimate nature.  There only were 8 emails and 18 text messages which, said the Tribunal, could be classed as flirtatious. No sexual motivation was alleged.  Both the patient and Dr C gave evidence that boundaries did blur briefly. They did not however act on the messages, they never even met for coffee.

Having first complained to the GMC the patient later declined to cooperate with the GMC.  She sent an email saying she did not understand the full extent of the process, refused to allow her statement to be used, refused to be a witness at the hearing and that the whole process was “an absolute disgrace”.  She also stated that she had “seen Dr C for over 15 years.  He is a fantastic Dr and this is just ridiculous”.  Both Dr C and the patient explained that the fleeting intimacy was short lived and they stopped it (it seems to have been no longer than a week).  It was their personal circumstances that drew them closer and Dr C regretted he allowed the blurring or boundaries during difficult times.

Notwithstanding the prima facie trifling depth and duration of the ‘intimacy’ the Tribunal found that because of the power imbalance, and the risk to trust in the doctor patient relationship, it was misconduct which was serious.  Dr C’s fitness to practise was not however found to be impaired and no warning was issued.  Dr C was able to prove he had full insight, genuine heartfelt regret, it was an isolated incident, full remediation and there were positive testimonials.

A separate case involved Dr N making a risqué farewell video for a retiring colleague which went “very, very wrong”. Ms L was retiring from her workplace after working for more than 20 years with Dr N.  Nurse A who had worked with them both for just over 2 years requested short videos from all colleagues and was organising the reel.  Dr N made a video in which he was naked but for a scarf that covered his genitals.  Dr N was an avid football fan and the scarf was from the club of his allegiance.  Dr N showed the video to Nurse A but prior to doing so asked her to wear one of his football scarves while she watched it.  He said the scarf was special and important to him and had been to lots of special places.  In Dr N’s mind this was part and parcel of the joke.  Nurse A saw things very differently and was offended by his conduct.  Ms L also watched the video.  She was not remotely perturbed by the video and messaged Dr N that it was a “hoot” and she would “miss his naughtiness”.  The Tribunal declined to find the video or Dr N’s conduct was sexually motivated, it was meant only in good humour to entertain a long-standing colleague.

The Tribunal did find that Dr N’s fitness to practise was impaired and it was misconduct acting as he did.  The determined that he should be suspended for 3 months to mark the seriousness of the incident and provide the doctor time for further insight and remediation.

These two cases, involving patients in the first and colleagues in the second, are plain examples of incidences of flirtation in the workplace attracting regulatory attention.  The differing reaction by Ms L and Nurse A highlight why even if a doctor is not sexually motivated, their flirtatious conduct can offend and to use Dr N’s words these “moments of madness” are certainly best avoided.  For every Ms L who will only be amused, there is a Nurse A who could be upset.

Please contact us for any direct advice on any fitness to practice matter, the general comments on these case reviews cannot be relied on as specific legal advice.