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Independents' Day

We will support GPs if they report patients unfit to drive, says GMC

The GMC has said that GPs must report patients to the DVLA who continue to drive against medical advice, as part of new draft guidance announced by the regulator.

In the overhauled guidance, the regulator has emphasised a ‘doctor’s duty’ to disclose information to the DVLA or DVA (Northern Ireland) – even if it is without their consent – if the patient has chosen not to act themselves.

The guidance is part of a wider consultation on confidentiality, which the GMC says aims to offer more clarity to doctors on how to balance their ‘legal and ethical duties of confidentiality with their wider public protection duties.’

According to the new overhauled guidance, doctors will be expected to contact the DVLA or DVA if a patient poses a risk of serious harm to the public by continuing to drive when they are not fit to do so.

However, this measure should only be taken as a last resort, if the patient has failed to contact the DVLA or DVA themselves.

But the guidance does add that, in general, when a doctor make a diagnosis or provide treatment – they should keep the patients ability to drive ‘at the forefront of their minds’.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said patient confidentiality is not absolute, and doctors play a key role in keeping the wider public safe.

He 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.

‘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.

‘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.’

The final guidance is expected to be published in late 2016.


Readers' comments (12)

  • Took Early Retirement

    So, how DOES one find out if a patient has contacted the DVLA? Unless one sees them driving, one only has their word to go on, and, as we know, patients never lie.

    That's a genuine question BTW- anyone know??

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  • How big of them!

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  • So now GPs are expected to be spys! Another thankless/unpaid task which could open us up to litigation!

    Is this because the law insufficiencies which showed up recently when a bin lorry driver had a fatal accident in Glasgow when he was thought to have had an absence. Despite his cardiologist previously advising him not to drive he still drove reportedly because the DVLA system was deemed flawed and does not make people have to report medical conditions fully (or something legal like that) The end result was after huge amounts of time money and effort investigating this case, the state could not legally make a criminal prosecution against him.

    The GMC are like a police organisation run by the govenment, totally unaccountable and out of control. So what when they say it is ok for us to report people, but if it is legal for people to drive with a history of health problems if they do not chose to report them to the DVLA, why are we getting involved???? Surely it is up to the DVLA to sort out their system and the govemnent to change laws.

    Could doctors be sued by patients for any greivences they had for telling the authorities about this. I cannot imagine that the GMC would cough up for the doctors time spent on this let alone any legal costs?

    Also if this policing by doctors starts to come in force, is this the begining of the end of patients confidentiality and yet further efforts to erode patients trust in doctors?

    Then what other things will be put into our 'doctors duty' to be forced to do by the state ... ahem GMC???

    Already revalidation forces doctors to be vaccinated and to jump though other hoops before they can get a licence to practice and if they don't they cannot work as doctors.

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  • "support us".....what total ****
    General Practice is in crisis due to the "terror campaign" waged against GPs by Hunt and his "pets".
    Junior doctors, please save yourselves. don't sacrifice your lives for these jokers

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  • Why can't they simply remove the issue by making it an automatic notification when a clear clinical threshold is passed? Why should a patient be given the choice about whether they endanger others or not?

    Utter horsesh*t.

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  • 9.55 you are right. It should not be up to doctors to report who they see fit, there should be a proper system in place to deal with this issue, now it has been highlighted.

    The government have been identified in having this problem (which may make them uncomfortable) but if the government cannot be bothered to do the work to create such a new system themselves, why should we have the responsibility of creating and implementing this major, highly emotive, expensive, bureaucratic issue for free?

    The number of people driving who perhaps should not be, may be endless. Who makes the judgement call for when for a whole range of different health problems overstep the mark? It is simply NOT our job.

    Or perhaps it is a cunning way to make doctors the scape goat if this happens again, as it is clear that patients can do what they want. Just shift the blame on the doctor who failed to report this possible problem.

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  • I think I'll be up for wallops for saying this but, after a conversation with a patient yesterday, I think this GMC assurance is helpful. What they do in the long run, we'll wait and see as far as supporting us is concerned.
    Had this patient with 'hemiplegic migrene' which results in loss of sight and loss of motor function in limb suddenly when stressed. However, patient has been driving for two years and failed to contact DVLA although she would have been advised to do so two years ago by the Neurologist. She was reluctant yesterday to inform them too. Do I wish to meet her on the motorway. No, not me. So, I've gave her a week and informed her that I will personally contact DVLA if she doesn't.
    This assurance coming from the GMC on the following day chilled me out completely.

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  • Wait for it folks the first case will be a GP being struck off for failing to report a patient involved in an RTA who 'should not have been driving' for medical reasons

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  • Dear All,
    Well considering that if a doctor advises someone to not drive it is a CRIMINAL offence for that person to drive (yes really, look it up, the advice of a registered Dr has the power of the law) it would seem that they couldn't really do anything else.
    Paul C

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  • just like you, the gmc, will strike off doctor if they dare to have a drink....have they all signed the pledge at the GMC...

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