GPs can report patients who drive when they are not medically fit, under new guidance that has come into force today.
New advice by the General Medical Council (GMC) states doctors have a duty to inform the authorities if a patient is driving against medical advice.
Doctors do not legally need a patient’s consent to alert the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - or Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland. Under the new guidance, GPs should "make every reasonable effort" to persuade a patient unfit to drive to stop, and then inform the authorities if they believe there is a "risk of death or serious harm" to others.
Edmund King, president of the AA said: "Rather than forcing older drivers to retake their tests or introducing tough medical tests across the board, we would prefer to see GPs take a more active role in telling their patients they are unfit to drive. It is best practice to tell the patient first before the DVLA.
"Research in the past found that the training of GPs on medical aspects of driving varied considerably depending on where that training was done. GPs and families of patients both have key roles in convincing drivers when they need to hang up their keys."
The new rules arrive after a campaign for “Poppy’s law”, following the death of three-year-old Poppy-Arabella Clarke, who was killed last year by a 73-year-old motorist who ignored opticians’ warnings not to drive.
Richard Langton, of law firm Slater and Gordon, representing the family of Poppy-Arabella, said: “Such guidance is long overdue, and we hope that all other health care professionals, including opticians, will adopt this policy urgently.
“If such rules had been in place 12 months ago then Poppy-Arabella's parents would have been spared their anguish. However, we cannot simply rely on busy doctors and opticians keeping tabs on their patients. A fool-proof system requires regular formal monitoring of drivers once they reach the sort of age that we know people's ability to drive safely may be starting to reduce. We will continue to campaign for such testing.”