Revised confidentiality rules from the GMC, which set in from Tuesday 25 April, emphasise that GPs must disclose medical information to the DVLA if a patient ignores their advice to stop driving - even if they do not consent.
The guidance warns that although doctors owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients, they ‘also have a wider duty to protect and promote the health of patients and the public’.
GPs are advised to encourage patients to notify the DVLA or DVA if they have a condition that or are undergoing treatment that could impair their fitness to drive, which they have a legal duty to do.
But if a patient refuses to do this, GPs are obliged to inform the DVLA - which includes disclosing any relevant medical information, it says.
Medicolegal organisations said it was not uncommon for patients to make official complaints against doctors for disclosing this information.
Dr Nicola Lennard, medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said: ‘If [a patient makes a complaint], having clear and comprehensive records, can help you provide a robust response and demonstrate that you have followed the proper process.
‘Your medical defence organisation can help to ensure you follow the GMC’s and DVLA’s guidance and we recommend that you consult us at an early stage.’
MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker said: ‘Should all attempts fail to persuade the patient to stop driving, or the doctor discovers that the patient is continuing to drive against advice and poses a safety risk to the public then this should be disclosed to a medical adviser at the DVLA. This should be done in confidence and include all relevant medical information which relates to the patient’s fitness to drive.
‘Before taking this step, however, it is important that the doctor tries to inform the patient of the decision to disclose personal information to the DVLA.
‘If the patient objects to disclosure, then the reasons for this should be sought and considered. Where disclosure is still deemed appropriate, the doctor should do so promptly, and then, write to the patient confirming that this has been done. A note should also be made of this in the patient’s records.’
The guidance recommends: ‘If you become aware that a patient is continuing to drive when they may not be fit to do so, you should make every reasonable effort to persuade them to stop.
‘If you do not manage to persuade the patient to stop driving, or you discover that they are continuing to drive against your advice, you should consider whether the patient’s refusal to stop driving leaves others exposed to a risk of death or serious harm.
‘If you believe that it does, you should contact the DVLA or DVA promptly and disclose any relevant medical information, in confidence, to the medical adviser.’