Doctors are now able to report patients they believe to be unfit to drive without their consent under new guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC), which came into effect on Tuesday (25 April).
Responding to calls to make reporting concerns to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) mandatory for doctors, Charlie Massey, GMC chief executive, said: “Our guidance is clear that doctors should disclose information about individual patients to protect the public from potential harm. Our updated advice on reporting concerns to the DVLA
also states that doctors should disclose information to the agency if others may be at risk - even if the patient does not agree to this.
“We don’t agree that reporting should be made mandatory. There is a clear public good in having a confidential medical service and we would be concerned about the wider implications if the trust between a doctor and their patient was eroded. We should let doctors use their professional judgment, in conjunction with our guidance, to the individual situation.”
In its guidance the GMC, an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK, says: “Personal information may, therefore, be disclosed in the public interest, without patients’ consent, and in exceptional cases where patients have withheld consent, if the benefits to an individual or to society of the disclosure outweigh both the public and the patient’s interest in keeping the information confidential.
“You [doctors] must weigh the harms that are likely to arise from non-disclosure of information against the possible harm, both to the patient and to the overall trust between doctors and patients, arising from the release of that information.
“Disclosure of personal information about a patient without consent may be justified in the public interest if failure to disclose may expose others to a risk of death or serious harm. You [doctors] should still seek the patient’s consent to disclosure if practicable and consider any reasons given for refusal.”
The DVLA is legally responsible for deciding if a person
is medically unfit to drive. That means they need to know if a driving licence
holder has a condition or is undergoing treatment that may now, or in the
future, affect their safety as a driver.
The full revised guidance is available at: http://www.gmc-uk.org/Patients__fitness_to_drive_and_reporting_concerns_to_the_DVLA_or_DVA.pdf_69092316.pdf