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Stating that pursuing a sexual relationship would "usually" be inappropriate might be capable of deliberate misinterpretation by the disreputable, said one respondent. Others suggested a precise waiting or cooling-off period could be recommended in the guideline to ensure a suitable gap between the end of the professional relationship and the beginning of a personal relationship.Good faith The Royal College of General Practitioners said some practical interpretation might be needed.The new draft maintains that doctors should not use their professional position to pursue relationships, but acknowledges that there might times when dating an ex-patient is permissible - something not covered by the 2001 guidelines.The draft advises: "If exceptional circumstances arise in which social contact with a former patient leads to the possibility of a sexual relationship beginning, you must give careful consideration to the nature and circumstances of the relationship." Doctors should ask themselves whether they and the ex-patient may be continuing a relationship based on emotional dependency, reflecting the imbalance of the previous professional relationship."Doctors who discover that a person with whom they are developing a personal or sexual relationship is also their patient should immediately cease the relationship or take reasonable steps to ensure that medical care is provided by another practitioner," it says.

Boundary violations can have devastating consequences. Sexual misconduct can create a lot of public and media attention and this can have severe repercussions for your career, your working relationships and your family.

"The advice that there should never be a sexual relationship with an ex-patient would mean that a doctor who develops a relationship with an ex-patient, who is also a social contact, can never marry or consummate the relationship even if the new partner leaves his or her list.

"Illustrative examples of what is appropriate and what isn't would help here," said a spokeswoman.

A medical practitioner’s reputation is often blemished and patients feel a loss of confidence, it may also be a trigger for other complaints from patients and former patients.

If you are found guilty of professional misconduct due to a boundary violation, penalties can include: Engaging in sexual activity with a patient, making sexual remarks, touching a patient in a sexual way or engaging in sexual behaviour in front of a patient are all sexual misconduct, regardless of whether the patient consents.

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