When I invented the ASAP Anonymous Sleep Apnoea Process™ in 2012, I understood that some people, for their own reasons, will not consult their GP about their symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea. Trust was in doubt.
Some years later, certain individuals failure to declare their relevant medical history, hit the headlines. Think Glasgow refuse lorry.
The DVLA and General Medical Council (GMC) responded in March 2016, by reinforcing the fact that it is the individual’s responsibility to cease driving and inform the DVLA, should anything impact upon ability to drive safely. They went on to impose a significant and impossible burden on the GP.
While recognising patient trust would be at risk, they decided to compel the poor GP, (in circumstances where they consider the patient is excessively sleepy and intending to continue to drive) to determine whether the patient’s confidentiality is of lesser importance than the risk to wider Society the patient may represent, should they maintain such trust.
In one fell swoop, belief in a confidential medical conversation, was destroyed. That is of course, if you consider the populations in question, ever felt secure enough to consult their GP….
As a consequence, trust between GPs and patients, arising from the threat of disclosure of medical history to the DVLA, has been comprehensively obliterated. From recent conversations, which I and my colleague have had with GPs, they are as you can imagine less than happy about this.
Here is the exact quote from the GMC, “Confidentiality: reporting concerns about patients to the DVLA or the DVA” [accessed 25 April 2016].
Personal information may, therefore, be disclosed in the public interest, without patients’ consent, and in exceptional cases where patients have withheld consent, if the benefits to an individual or to society of the disclosure outweigh both the public and the patient’s interest in keeping the information confidential.
I wrote about sleep apnoea testing and data privacy previously, highlighting the risks of actions that inadvertently compromise people and going into the difference between anonymous and confidential testing.
There is no solace in saying “told you so”.