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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 or a midwife, the Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Code section 21 states you should:

Uphold your position as a registered nurse or midwife. 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.

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 e.g. 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.

Whether to accept or not is ultimately a decision for you to make.

Signing a will

There is nothing in law preventing a nurse, midwife or healthcare 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 or healthcare practitioners to undertake this task
  • it could be more desirable and appropriate for someone else who is independent and forthcoming to undertake the 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.

Professional practice

Read our advice on medicines management, immunisation, revalidation,  practice standards and mental health.

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Page last updated - 22/07/2019