The General Medical Council has published revised guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK
Revised guidance on confidentiality
The General Medical Council has published revised guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK. It comes into effect on 25 April 2017. Until then the current GMC guidance published in 2009 remains in place.
Specific situations that doctors may find difficult
The GMC has also published explanatory notes to show how the new guidance applies to situations doctors may encounter that they find difficult. One of these situations covers when a doctor should report concerns to the DVLA/DVA about a patient's fitness to drive. This updated guidance:
Assessing a patient
The DVLA/DVA needs to know if a person with a driving licence has a condition or is having treatment which may affect their safety as a driver. When assessing a patient a doctor should refer to the DVLA guidance Assessing fitness to drive – a guide for medical professionals. It is always a difficult decision for clinicians to make as to whether to disclose information to the DVLA/DLA. If the doctor is not sure they should seek advice from a senior colleague.
Discussion with the patient
The driver is legally responsible for informing the DVLA/DLA about a condition or treatment which can impair their fitness to drive. Further, the DVLA/DLA is responsible for deciding if a person is unfit to drive based on relevant evidence. As such the DVLA/DLA needs to know when driving licence holders have a condition or issue which may now, or in the future, affect their safety as a driver.
If a patient has a condition or is having treatment which may impair their fitness to drive, the doctor should:
When should a doctor contact the DVLA/DVA
If a patient refuses to stop driving and the doctor believes that the patient's driving exposes others to serious harm, the doctor should:
Once the DVLA/DLA has been informed you should also write to the patient where possible to confirm that a disclosure has been made.
A patient should understand that simply because they have a reportable condition, it does not mean that they will automatically be precluded from driving, but the DVLA/DLA will make that determination based on medical information and any subsequent questionnaire or assessment.
How we can help
Making decisions about when to share confidential information can often be difficult and stressful. In relation to any decision the issues and grounds of disclosure need to be considered, if appropriate debated and then clearly documented in the notes.
Bevan Brittan has substantial experience in advising healthcare professionals in connection with the disclosure of confidential information. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised please contact us.