DOCTORS must inform the DVLA if a patient continues to drive against medical advice, according to draft new guidance from the General Medical Council.
The regulator has taken a tougher approach to the issue and is emphasising a doctor’s duty to disclose information where the patient has failed to act.
As a result, doctors who disclose are being reassured they will “not face any sanction” and will be supported by the GMC.
The move is part of a public consultation on the GMC’s core guidance Confidentiality. It aims to offer greater clarity for doctors on balancing their legal and ethical duties of confidentiality with their wider public protection responsibilities.
Under the draft new guidance, if a patient poses a risk of serious harm to the public by driving while unfit, the doctor should contact the DVLA or DVA even if they do not have the patient’s consent. These steps should only be taken as a last resort, it adds, when efforts to encourage the patient to act responsibly fail.
It goes on to advise doctors that when diagnosing a patient’s condition they should keep in mind their ability to drive safely.
The GMC have acknowledged that doctors “often feel anxious” about deciding to disclose for fear of being criticised, but the new guidance emphasises that confidentiality is not absolute.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said that most patients will stop driving when advised to do so, but some lack the insight to realise they are a risk to others behind the wheel.
He said: “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 consultation on Confidentiality runs until February 10 and the final guidance is expected late 2016.