Gifts and wills
It can be difficult to refuse a well-meant gift from a grateful patient or family member. If you are a nurse, midwife or nursing associate, the Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Code section 21 states you should:
Uphold your position as a registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate. To achieve this, you must....refuse all but the most trivial gifts, favours or hospitality as accepting them could be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment.
You can seek support from your manager who, in line with local policy, may be able to help you politely decline the gift.
Bequests in a will
If you are aware that a patient, an ex-patient or a family member is considering leaving you a gift in a will, you should document this at work and seek immediate advice from your manager. Discuss section 21 of the NMC Code with them, along with any local policy that covers gifts and bequests.
The NMC would be concerned that preferential treatment could be given in these circumstances and that it could undermine the public's trust and confidence in you. If you have unknowingly been left a bequest in a will, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I influence the deceased in any way?
- Did I treat the deceased in a preferential manner (or anyone one else for example, a family member)?
- Have I breached the NMC Code?
If the answer is ‘no’ to the above questions, it would seem that by accepting the bequest you are not in contravention of the NMC Code but there have been occasions when nurses have been asked to justify their position. Read your employer's policy on gifts and bequests, too.
Whether to accept or not is ultimately a decision for you to make.
Signing or witnessing a will
There is nothing in law preventing a nurse, midwife, nursing associate or health care practitioner from being a witness to a will.
It is worth bearing in mind the following points before agreeing to do so:
- a witness to a will can later be drawn into litigation and for this reason the RCN does not encourage nurses, midwives, nursing associates or health care practitioners to undertake this task
- some employers may have a policy that appoints this task to a specific person, usually a manager, in the workplace
- a witness cannot be a beneficiary.
Making your own will
If you don't have a will yet, don't worry - the expert team of legal professionals at RCNLaw is here to support you. RCNLaw provides a fast, efficient and friendly service at a discounted rate for RCN members. It also offers highly competitive rates for your family and friends.
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Page last updated - 07/02/2024