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Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988
During COVID many drivers’ licences have expired. The DVLA initially gave extensions so that drivers could continue to drive and work. For many drivers however, this extension is coming to an end.
Some Drivers are now being told by the DVLA to ask their GP if they are “fit to drive” so that they can continue to drive under Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988). The DVLA has produced a leaflet which explains RTA 1988.
GPs are not usually qualified, and may not be indemnified, to advise patients whether or not they are fit to drive. In normal circumstances a practice may provide a factual report for the DVLA so that their expert medical advisers will decide upon fitness. If a GP were to provide an opinion that their patient was ‘fit to drive’, and then an accident were to occur, the GP may be liable. This would not be covered by the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice, as this is not NHS work.
If a GP were to say that a patient was not fit, then that could equally potentially adversely affect the long term doctor-patient relationship.
For these reasons, if there may be any doubts about whether a person is fit to drive, the GP should decline to provide this assurance. We recommend writing to the DVLA explaining that as a GP your place is not to provide an opinion as to an individual’s fitness to drive per se, but that you may be offer to provide factual information about your patient’s health, with their consent.
Practices may wish to publish an explanatory note on their websites or noticeboards, so that patients are forewarned that this is what their policy is.
If a GP chooses to produce a bespoke report prepared for the patient to be sent to the DVLA on their behalf, a reasonable fee may be charged as this is not NHS work.