GPs have a duty to inform the DVLA when they learn a patient is driving with a medical condition that makes them unfit to do so and in spite of medical advice to stop, defence organisations have said.
Ahead of new GMC new confidentiality guidance that comes into force on Tuesday, the MDU and MDDUS have reminded doctors that their duty of confidentiality to patients ‘isn’t absolute’ when public safety is at risk.
The MDU warned that GPs need to be clear on the steps they should take prior to a disclosure as patient complaints ‘are not unusual’ and are sometimes referred to the GMC.
GPs should first explain to patients why they are unfit to drive and warn that they may be forced to disclose this if they persist with driving.
They can also offer advice on obtaining a second opinion if the patient disputes this.
MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker said: ‘If all attempts fail to persuade the patient to stop driving, or the doctor discovers that the patient is continuing to drive against advice and poses a safety risk to the public then this should be disclosed to a medical adviser at the DVLA.
‘This should be done in confidence and include all relevant medical information which relates to the patient’s fitness to drive.’
But before taking this step the GP should again attempt to notify the patient that they will be forced to make a disclosure.
The MDU received 3,640 queries relating to confidentiality in 2016, with many of these about a patient who refuses to stop driving.
Dr Nicola Lennard, medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said that complaints were not unusual from patients who have had their information passed on to the DVLA, and in some cases these were referred to the GMC.
She added: ‘If this happens, having clear and comprehensive records, can help you provide a robust response and demonstrate that you have followed the proper process.’
The GMC’s confidentiality guidance also tasks GPs with explaining to patients the risks of not sharing their information, and steps to consider when setting up record sharing.