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GPs told to inform DVLA if people not fit to drive

Epilepsy Society's medical director Professor Ley Sander has underlined the importance of people informing the DVLA and stopping driving if they have seizures.

Young woman driving carGPs are being told to report people to the DVLA if they continue to drive in spite of a serious illness or medical condition.

New draft guidelines drawn up by the General Medical Council say GPs should advise people to stop driving if they have certain illnesses such as dementia, epilepsy, sight or hearing problems and heart conditions. They should also stop driving if they are taking anti-depressants or sleeping tablets.

If people continue to drive the GP should break patient confidentiality and inform the DVLA for the sake of public safety.

Epilepsy and driving

Professor Sander at Epilepsy Society said, however: 'This is already the case with epilepsy. If someone is having seizures they are obliged to notify the DVLA and stop driving. If they refuse, the physician can break patient confidentiality and tell medical advisers at the DVLA. This is because they are not only putting themselves at risk, they are endangering members of the public. The physician should always inform the person that they will be notifying the DVLA themselves.'

Professor Sander said that for a person with epilepsy, losing their driving licence was one of the hardest things to cope with.

'Our lives often revolve around the car and if you can't drive you lose a degree of independence and freedom,' he said. 'Suddenly you are relying on other people for lifts. This can impact on your employment, social life, family life and even fundamental things like doing the shopping at the out-of-town shopping centre.

'When I tell a person of a diagnosis of epilepsy, I know that as soon as I mention that they cannot drive they don't hear anything else that I am saying. It's like pulling the rug from under their feet. Driving is a very big issue.'

Expert advice

If the DVLA becomes aware that someone with ongoing seizures is continuing to drive, their licence may be revoked and they may be fined.

The General Medical Council will now seek expert advice on the guidance and will publish a final version next year.

Find out more

Read the regulations around driving and epilepsy