As reported earlier this month, the General Medical Council (GMC) has now revised its confidentiality guidance in relation to reporting concerns to the DVLA.
The GMC says doctors owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients, but it adds: “They also have a wider duty to protect and promote the health of patients and the public.”
So, mandatory reporting of a driver’s poor eyesight (for example) is not on the table.
Instead, the guidance states:
“The driver is legally responsible for telling the DVLA or DVA about any such condition or treatment.
“Doctors should therefore alert patients to conditions and treatments that might affect their ability to drive and remind them of their duty to tell the appropriate agency.
“Doctors may, however, need to make a decision about whether to disclose relevant information without consent to the DVLA or DVA in the public interest if a patient is unfit to drive but continues to do so.”
The guidance states that if a doctor thinks it is not safe or practicable to seek consent then disclosure may be justified.
Balancing confidentiality with public safety is a tricky task.
We’ve highlighted cases where drivers have ignored medical experts’ warnings about driving and gone on to kill people in their vehicles.
But it seems that experts can also be reluctant to disclose medical information, due to the legal ramifications of doing so.
According to the Medical Defence Union, 3,640 members contacted its 24-hour advice line last year, with many querying whether to pass on information to the DVLA.
It says it is not unusual for patients to make a complaint when a disclosure has been made, and in some cases these complaints have been referred to the GMC.
For now, at least, motorists remain in the driving seat.