The recommendations follow a series of high-profile cases where healthcare staff sexually abused patients.
The proposals, the first of their kind, are expected to go before ministers in June, reported Nursing Standard.
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(b) When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently.
Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
(c) If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines, just as they would in any other context.
Mental health professionals set even stricter standards.Dr Clifford Ayling, a GP, was convicted of sexually assaulting women patients over a number of years and Dr Peter Green, also a GP, was found guilty of nine counts of indecent assault.In 2005 the Kerr-Haslam inquiry found that allegations of indecent assault against two psychiatrists from North Yorkshire were often ignored by NHS consultants.The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence said professionals had a duty to report inappropriate behaviour.The Department of Health commissioned the report on 'Clear Sexual Boundaries Between Health Professionals and Patients' from the CHRE after three national inquiries found serious failings in the handling of cases of sexual abuse of patients."Although it would not be possible to specify a length of time after which it is acceptable to pursue a relationship with a former patient, it is reasonable to expect that the more recently a professional relationship ended the less likely it is to be appropriate to begin a personal relationship with the patient." Patient groups welcomed the change, saying it was about time the watchdog moved into "the 21st century".Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, said: "I don't see any problem with it if they are no longer their doctor.Sexual or romantic interactions between physicians and patients detract from the goals of the physician-patient relationship, may exploit the vulnerability of the patient, may obscure the physician's objective judgment concerning the patient's health care, and ultimately may be detrimental to the patient's well-being....Sexual or romantic relationships between a physician and a former patient may be unduly influenced by the previous physician-patient relationship.This is the only profession of which a member can ask a person to take their clothes off and find the request usually met with few questions and no resistance." In an earlier interview with GP magazine Pulse, he said: "A proper emotional and sexual relationship is a partnership of equals, both parties enjoying the same rights, privileges and limitations."Any other basis for a relationship is flawed and needs to be criticised and resisted most vehemently.