New guidance on disclosing confidential information about patients, including when patients might not be fit to drive, has been published by the General Optical Council.

Research carried out by the GOC found that confidentiality is a complex and confusing area for practitioners, especially around vision and driving.

It found that 72% of registrants would not feel comfortable informing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or the Driver and Vehicle Agency if a patient could not or would not do it themselves.

A total of 56% of respondents to the survey said it was difficult to balance patient confidentiality with their duty to protect the public from harm.

Marcus Dye, director of strategy at the GOC, said: ‘We know the area of vision and safe driving is a particularly difficult one for registrants, so we’ve included a flowchart in the guidance to provide them with more clarity on what to do if a patient’s vision is no longer adequate to drive. We hope the guidance will give registrants the confidence to decide when to override confidentiality to ensure public protection.’

A consultation on the guidance found that 84% of practitioners said it would help them understand when and how to apply their professional judgement to override patient confidentiality.

The guidance is designed to provide clarity around the GOC’s expectations of practitioners’ responsibility when disclosing confidential information to ensure the protection of patients and the public.

The GOC highlighted that the guidance does not create new requirements or provide legal advice and should be considered alongside existing standards of practice.

The GOC has included a flowchart in the guidance