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GMC has said that GPs must report patients to the DVLA who continue to drive against medical advice, as part of new draft guidance announced by the regulator.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