Select location
Membership information
0800 561 9000
Medicolegal advice
0800 561 9090
Menu
Refine my search

Case example for GPs: disclosing to the DVLA

Post date: 16/12/2019 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 17/12/2019

Denise Thomas, case manager at Medical Protection, shares a recent case relating to a disclosure to the DVLA without patient consent.

Dr A, a GP, telephoned the Medical Protection medicolegal advice line to speak to an expert about a challenging situation. 

Mr F had attended a consultation with Dr A to discuss substance misuse and alcohol addiction. Mr F informed Dr A that he consumed over 50 units of alcohol per week and had an addiction to cocaine. Mr F held a driving licence to operate a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), in addition to his category B licence to drive a car. Dr A discussed his concerns with Mr F regarding his health and the importance of reducing his weekly alcohol intake, as well as addressing Mr F’s addiction to cocaine. With his consent, Dr A referred Mr F to the local drug and alcohol service to receive advice and treatment for his addiction issues.

In the meantime, Dr A advised Mr F to stop driving until he had received treatment from the drug and alcohol service and had reduced his alcohol intake and drug use. Dr A also advised the patient to inform the DVLA of his drug and alcohol addiction. Mr F refused, informing Dr A that this would result in his licence being revoked and would affect his livelihood as an HGV driver.

Dr A was unsure what to do in this situation and sought advice from Medical Protection.

Expert advice

Dr A spoke to a case manager who had dealt with a variety of medicolegal queries for a number of years at Medical Protection.

She advised Dr A in accordance with the GMC guidance on Confidentiality: patients' fitness to drive and reporting concerns to the DVLA or DVA.1 This guidance states that although doctors have a duty of confidentiality to a patient, there is a wider duty to protect others from a risk of serious harm. As the DVLA in the UK (the DVA in Northern Ireland) has a legal duty to decide whether an individual is medically fit to drive, they need to know if a person holding a licence has a condition or is undergoing treatment that may affect their safety as a driver.

The case manager further advised Dr A that the patient had a legal duty to inform the DVLA once a medical professional has determined they have a condition that could impair their fitness to drive, after a review of the DVLA’s guidance Assessing fitness to drive – a guide for medical professionals.2If the patient refuses to notify the DVLA, Dr A should inform Mr F that Dr A himself may have an obligation to do so, if he feels others are at risk of death or serious harm.

If Mr F remained dissatisfied, she informed Dr A that he could offer Mr F a second opinion, as long as he agreed not to drive in the meantime. The case manager also advised Dr A that he could offer to have a discussion with friends or family members of Mr F with his consent, if this would be helpful. Due to the impact the disclosure would have on Mr F, she recommended that Dr A seek advice from one of the DVLA’s medical examiners anonymously in the first instance, to confirm that the patient’s condition(s) did indeed meet the threshold for disclosure.

If Mr F still refused to stop driving, either before or after obtaining a second opinion, and if Dr A felt the patient’s ability to drive safely was still impaired and could expose others to a risk of death or serious harm, the case manager advised Dr A that he should make a disclosure of the relevant information to the DVLA in confidence. Before contacting the DVLA to make this disclosure, DT advised Dr A that he should attempt to contact the patient to inform him of his intention to disclose, if this is practicable. Once a disclosure has been made, Dr A should inform the patient in writing. Any decision made to either disclose or not to disclose the information should be clearly documented in the medical records.

If Dr A had concerns that Mr F posed an immediate risk to the public, the case manager advised that Dr A should consider calling the police in order to safeguard the public.

To contact Medical Protection with your own query, please contact our 24/7 helpline on 0800 561 9090.

References

1 Gmc-uk.org. (2019). Patients' fitness to drive and reporting concerns to the DVLA or DVA. [online] Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/ethical-guidance/ethical-guidance-for-doctors/confidentiality---patients-fitness-to-drive-and-reporting-concerns-to-the-dvla-or-dva/patients-fitness-to-drive-and-reporting-concerns-to-the-dvla-or-dva [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019].

2 GOV.UK. (2019). Assessing fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/assessing-fitness-to-drive-a-guide-for-medical-professionals [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019].

Published as From the advice line - driving force in our print publication, Practice Matters.

Share this article

Share
Load more reviews
Rating

You've already submitted a review for this item

|
New site feature tour

Introducing an improved
online experience

You'll notice a few things have changed on our website. After asking our members what they want in an online platform, we've made it easier to access our membership benefits and created a more personalised user experience.

Why not take our quick 60-second tour? We'll show you how it all works and it should only take a minute.

Take the tour Continue to site

Medicolegal advice
0800 561 9090
Membership information
0800 561 9000

Key contact details

Should you need to contact us, our phone numbers are always visible.

Personalise your search

We'll save your profession in the "I am a..." dropdown filter for next time.

Tour completed

Now you've seen all of the updated features, it's time for you to try them out.

Continue to site
Take again