Doctors must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if a patient continues to drive against medical advice according to strengthened guidelines.
The guidelines issued by the General Medical Council (GMC) as part of a wider consultation on confidentiality, emphasised a doctor’s duty to disclose information to the DVLA or DVA in Northern Ireland, where the patient has failed to act on their fitness to drive.
According to the GMC, the overhauled guidance provided extra clarity that, if a patient does pose a risk of serious harm to the public by continuing to drive when they are not fit to do so, the doctor should contact the DVLA even if they do not have the patient’s consent to do so. These steps should only be taken as a last resort, if efforts to encourage the patient to act responsibly fail.
The guidance also emphasises that when they diagnose a patient’s condition, or provide treatment, doctors should keep the patient’s ability to drive safely at the forefront of their minds.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: “Doctors often find themselves in challenging situations. 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.
“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.”
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Thirty-seven million drivers depend on the car for getting about and for those with serious medical conditions there is a real fear around losing their license. But with the right treatment many illnesses will not lead to people having to hang up the keys. The worst thing motorists can do is ignore medical advice. If they don’t tell the DVLA about something that impacts on their ability to drive safely then their GP will.”
The consultation on Confidentiality, including reporting concerns to the DVLA, will run from 25 November 2015 to 10 February 2016. The GMC have also launched a short questionnaire to gather the views of patients and doctors. Both documents are available on the GMC’s website.
The final guidance is expected to be published in late 2016.