Okay to depart from guidelines

20 Feb 2015

It’s okay for doctors to depart from guidelines as long as they are acting in the patient’s best interests, the UK’s medical defence union has said.

In a letter to the BMJ the union said it often had queries from doctors on the medicolegal implications of not sticking to guidelines when they treat patients.

Guidelines inform clinical practice but don’t dictate it, neither do they replace clinicians’ knowledge and skills, wrote Caroline Fryer, head of advisory services at the MDU.

However, doctors are expected to be familiar with nationally recognised guidelines that are relevant to their specialty, as well as local guidelines, she said.

“This does not mean they cannot depart from guidance when they consider it to be in the patient’s interests to do so,” she said.

“Doctors must be prepared to explain and justify their decisions and actions, especially if they depart from guidelines issued by a nationally recognised body,” she added.

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