The General Medical Council has announced new advice for doctors when it comes to a patients ability to drive. The advice is now that GPs must inform the DVLA of any patient they see who has a condition or disability that makes them medically unfit to drive. This comes after some GPs had concerns over reporting due to patient doctor confidentiality.

Confidentiality vs Safety

The draft guidance from the General Medical Council strengthens advice given previously. GPs and members of the public can read the draft as it goes through public consultation. The main gist of the guidance is that public safety overrides confidentiality, in this case the doctor-patient secrecy provided by the hippocratic oath. However, reporting a patient to the DVLA is also advised as a last resort.

This means that there will be some responsibility left to patients when it comes to deciding to drive or not. The guidance suggests that patients should be aware of their own medical conditions that could impair their driving ability, and that if a GP advises not to drive then they should follow the advice.

37 Million UK Drivers

With over 37 million UK drivers on the road, there have never been more cars used on a daily basis. Being told that you are unfit to drive could be a severe blow, especially if you require the car for work or to visit loved ones.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: “This is difficult territory – most patients will do the sensible thing but the truth is that a few will not and may not have the insight to realise that they are a risk to others behind the wheel of a car. “A confidential medical service is a public good, and trust is an essential part of the doctor-patient relationship, but confidentiality is not absolute and doctors can play an important part in keeping the wider public safe if a patient is not safe to drive.”

There has been concern that doctors breaking patient confidentiality could face sanctions, especially if a patient found out that they were reported to the DVLA. Niall Dickson continued, “We are clear that doctors carrying out their duty will not face any sanction – and this new guidance makes clear that we will support those who are faced with these difficult decisions.”

What do you think?

Should doctors be reporting patients to the DVLA if they are unfit to drive? Or is it down to patients themselves to police themselves?


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