Tuesday, 20 December 2011


I mentioned recently that I had made one of my exceedingly rare visits to my GP. Subsequently returning to my car in the car park I saw something that left me speechless and scared. There was a very elderly lady also returning to her car. What astounded me was that she appeared to be finding her way back by feel until she found her own vehicle. She then got in and drove off while peering over the wheel. I got the strong impression that she was blind as a bat.

I expect her GP would be aware of her poor eyesight and wondered why he had not stopped her driving. Well I did a little research, and apparently it is not his responsibility. 

Those who drive for a living, HGV and PSV drivers, once they attain a certain age, are required by law to undergo a yearly medical to ensure their continuing fitness to drive. Private motorists however are under no such obligation. Nor are their GPs under any obligation to enforce driving restrictions arising out of the ill health of their patients. The ultimate responsibility to report health related unfitness to drive actually lies with the driver. I think we can see the flaw in this system.

GPs are required to advise patients if they have a condition which requires notification, but how many do. Losing your driving license is a huge loss and I suspect many GPs would feel uncomfortable with effectively removing this privilege. 

Government, and the DVLA have not addressed this problem, nor do they have any plans to do so. So step forward those unlikely heroes at the GMC, who have now stated that doctors should be more pro-active here. It is true I don’t often find much good to say about the GMC, but I agree absolutely with them on this. Because frankly I don’t care to share the roads with drivers who are unfit to drive through age and ill health any more than those who are drunk. 


  1. I suspect that the GP was unaware that she had driven there.

  2. Ummm not strictly true. We are consistantly informed by the DVLA that it is our duty to breach confidentiality on this if we have genuine concerns re someone's safety to drive on medical grounds. As a biker, I am very vulnerable to such bad drivers. I can recall several very unpleasant encounters with patients where I have done such (usually dementia or stroke victims). There are other ways too, eg worried partners hiding keys. The difficulty is where there is no insight and cognitive loss. I usually ask punters to do it themselves, go oon an elderly driving assessment (free locally) and, as a last resot, if they still drive here, report to DVLA - so there! :-P

  3. Public duty to report in my opinion.