The General Optical Council (GOC) is consulting on new draft guidance around disclosing confidential patient information when it is in the public interest.
This includes the situation where a registrant is considering informing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency that a patient is not fit to drive due to inadequate vision.
Head of standards and continuing education and training at the GOC, Marcus Dye highlighted that the GOC’s standards make it clear that practitioners should promptly raise concerns about their patient if they think that public or patient safety is at risk.
“Some registrants have requested additional guidance on how to apply this and in particular how to consider this alongside the professional requirement of maintaining confidentiality,” Mr Dye said.
“This guidance will provide more clarity about our expectations and will help registrants in their decision-making,” he explained.
Mr Dye added that practitioners will still need to use their professional judgement, but the guidance should be a useful tool in making decisions.
“It is important to remember too that the guidance is only in draft form. I encourage registrants, patients and other stakeholders to let us know their thoughts during the consultation period so we can consider any changes that may be appropriate before we publish a final version,” he said.
As part of research commissioned by the GOC in 2017, more than half of respondents (56%) reported that it was difficult to balance their duty of patient confidentiality with their duty to protect the public from harm in relation to vision and safe driving.
Policy director at the AOP, Tony Stafford said that the Association would be looking at the new draft guidance carefully and aiming to get as much clarity as possible for practitioners.
“To inform our response to the consultation we will be asking for members’ views in our community forums next week, but I would also encourage all practitioners to complete the GOC’s online survey,” he said.
Mr Stafford emphasised that it is clear the current rules on driving and vision are too weak.
“One of the key findings of the GOC’s survey on the issue is that most practitioners feel the current system does not adequately protect the public. We are continuing to make the case for drivers to have regular sight tests, and for the Government to introduce regular mandatory vision checks for drivers, through our campaigns and public affairs work” Mr Stafford concluded.
The GOC consultation will be open for three months and closes on 13 June. Practitioners can read and respond to the consultation at the GOC Consultation Hub.
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