Doctors have a duty to disclose information to the DVLA (or DVA) without a patients consent, if they continue to drive but are unfit to do so, the General Medical Committee (GMC) said today.
The guidance aims to offer greater clarity for doctors on how to balance their legal and ethical duties of confidentiality with their wider public protection responsibilities, the GMC said, and is part of new draft “strengthened” guidance on confidentiality.
It said that confidentiality is “not absolute”, but doctors often feel anxious about being criticised if they disclose information.
The GMC said: “Doctors should disclose information if it is necessary to protect individuals or the wider public from risks of death or serious harm – whether that is from violent crime, serious communicable diseases, or the risks posed by patients who are not fit to drive.”
The guidance on confidentiality is open to consultation from 25 November 2015 to 10 February 2016, and the final guidance is expected to be published in late 2016.
In response, Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The unique relationship between GPs and their patients is one based on trust, and that works both ways, so where possible we try to leave the responsibility for reporting unfitness to drive in the hands of the patient.
“But we do follow up on recommendations we make, and in some cases – if a patient hasn’t self-reported – we do take this step on their behalf,” she added.