Updated advice for GPs on fitness to drive kicks in
GPs can now advise the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) if a patient is unfit to drive but continues to do so.
The new General Medical Council (GMC) guidance, which came into effect on 25 April 2017, says doctors owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients, but “they also have a wider duty to protect and promote the health of patients and the public”.
It adds that: “If it is not practicable to seek consent, and in exceptional cases where a patient has refused consent, disclosing personal information may be justified in the public interest if failure to do so may expose others to a risk of death or serious harm.”
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety charity, welcomed the new advice: “Any driver with a medical condition that could prevent them from driving safely should declare that condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so, they need to understand that their doctor will now inform the authorities. We appreciate that having to give up driving because of a medical condition is a difficult step for some individuals, and this is a discussion that needs to take place with family, GPs and other medical professionals. I would appeal to all drivers to ensure that they declare any relevant medical conditions to the DVLA/DVA to help keep all road users safe.”
The new guidance follows the publication a month ago of the DVLA’s strategic plan, which saw the agency say it has already made improvements in assessing fitness to drive, including a new online service that can be used by drivers to provide notification of medical conditions. This follows a recent report that accused the DVLA of major failings in assessing people’s fitness to drive.