However, a recent study found that nearly half of male general practitioners never and rarely used chaperones when intimately examining women, while another found only 37% of general practitioners had a chaperoning policy.
The authors carried out a survey on patients' preferences for chaperones at genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, where intimate examinations are routine.
A total of 252 patients took part in the survey during June and December 2003. Ninety two percent (232) were offered a chaperone before an intimate examination, 22% (52) accepted, 12% (27) expressed no preference, and 66% (153) declined.
Patients declined chaperones because they trusted the doctor, felt it unnecessary, wished privacy, felt embarrassed, or were not bothered.
Significantly fewer male patients accepted chaperones than female patients and significantly more female patients accepted chaperones from male doctors than from female doctors.
"Chaperones are there for the protection of both parties," say the authors. "Perhaps further guidance will arise for other healthcare professionals, who until now may see patients unaccompanied."