Let us first of all have a look at the definition of a chaperone.
In essence, a chaperone is an impartial third party person who is present
during a patient examination and/or treatment for the benefit of both the
patient and physiotherapist. A chaperone is an adult person. Children should
not be used as chaperones, even in exceptional circumstances.
Why do we need to offer a chaperone?
In 2000, GP Clifford Ayling was convicted of sexual assault on 10 female patients during intimate examinations. At the time, the GMC’s guidance on intimate examinations (1996) suggested that ‘whenever possible’ doctors should offer a chaperone or invite the patient to bring a relative or a friend.
The inquiry that followed the Ayling case found that he usually carried out intimate examinations without the presence of a chaperone. It called for trained chaperones to be routinely offered in these situations. Patients would have the right to decline if they wished.
So what does that have to do with us as therapists? The CSP and HCPC determine that patients have the right to be offered a chaperone and the CSP Quality Assurance Standards states in 2.3.6 that there are procedures in place to manage chaperoning arrangements
All medical consultations, examinations and investigations are potentially distressing. Patients can find examinations intrusive and the need for patients to undress or be touched may make a patient feel vulnerable. A chaperone is present as a safeguard for all parties (patient and practitioners) and is a witness to continuing consent of the procedure
The relationship between a patient and their therapist is based on trust. A therapist may have no doubts about a patient they have known for a long time and feel it is not necessary to offer a formal chaperone. Similarly studies have shown that many patients are not concerned whether a chaperone is present or not. However this should not detract from the fact that any patient is entitled to a chaperone if they feel one is required.
So could a family member act as a chaperone?
Yes the patient can bring a family member, or friend, along with them as an informal chaperone. They are there to support the patient however they can not act as a formal chaperone.
What is the difference?
An informal chaperone is someone who would not be expected to take an active part in the examination or delivery of treatment or observe any interventions directly as they are not impartial observers.
A formal chaperone is someone who has had specific training around equality, diversity and cultural awareness, communication skills, observational skills, consent and confidentiality, safeguarding.
Who can be a formal chaperone?
A health professional or staff member such as a physiotherapy support worker, health care assistant or a receptionist who is specifically trained as a chaperone.
If you are a sole practitioner then think about using a peer on a reciprocal arrangement. GP practices can be a useful place to source a chaperone. If it is not possible to be able to offer a chaperone then your patient Information leaflet needs to state this right from the start and suggest other larger practices with more staff if patients wish to have a chaperone
For more information visit our store where you can find a Chaperone Policy and Patient Information Leaflets
Please remember that the therapist is also entitled to have a chaperone.