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Bus company asks GPs to assess if coach drivers are safe to drive

A bus company has written to local GPs asking whether patients are fit to drive their coaches, it has emerged.

Devon LMC reported in its latest bulletin that a number of GPs were contacted by Stagecoach to find out if they would supply any details about company employees that affect their ability to drive a bus. 

The LMC described the request as ‘not reasonable’. 

Stagecoach, which declined to share the letter, said it had made this request to GPs in a bid to ‘maintain the highest possible safety standards’.

A Stagecoach spokesperson said: ‘Safety has always been and always will be our highest priority. We are constantly seeking to update and improve our processes to maintain the highest possible safety standards, and this has included asking – with the consent of our employees – for support from GPs to confirm to us upon request anything that they feel we should be aware of that could affect an employee’s ability to safely drive a bus.

‘We fully accept that the responsibility for maintaining the safety of our operations lies with us and with our employees. However, we also believe there are ways we can work with our partners in the medical industry to further improve safety in the best interests of everyone.’

In response to the letter, Devon LMC medical secretary Dr Mark Sanford-Wood told Stagecoach that GPs ‘have neither the training nor the resources’ to be part of the company’s monitoring system.

He said GPs should only answer a question of ‘specific medical fact’ posed by Stagecoach’s own doctor. 

He wrote: ‘We also appear to be in agreement that the responsibility for ensuring the fitness of your staff to drive your buses rests with you. This duty is initially discharged through evidence collected through the HGV/PCV [heavy vehicle goods/passenger carrying vehicle] medical form and submitted to the DVLA.

‘The role of your company doctor is presumably to monitor the health of your staff, including drivers, for any changes that may pose a risk to the public. To be clear, this is a monitoring function run by your company, which is in addition to the statutory process inherent in the DVLA medical. General practitioners have neither the training nor the resources to form part of your monitoring system, which is entirely the responsibility of your company.’

Dr Sanford-Wood added that asking GPs to give their opinion on matters they are not qualified in is ‘not reasonable’. 

He said: ‘Your company doctor may reasonably ask the GP for additional medical information in support of this function. The information requested in this manner must relate to matters of medical fact which a GP without the special training referred to above can reasonably be expected to provide.

‘What is not reasonable is the posing of a question to the GP which requires them to express an opinion which they are unqualified to offer. An example of such an open opinion-based question is the querying of the fitness of a patient to drive a bus.’

‘The question you are posing to GPs falls into this category. A more proper question, and one to which the GP is qualified to reply, would be one of specific medical fact. Your company doctor should therefore prepare specific questions of fact to pose to the GP,’ he added.

It comes after a Pulse survey revealed that over half of GPs say they work above safe limits, and on average deal with a third more patients than they say they should be.