2019 archived consultation: Disclosing confidential information about patients (including where patients may not be fit to drive) - draft guidance for GOC registrants


13 Jun 2019


21 Mar 2019

This consultation was previously hosted on our consultation hub. We have moved it here as part of archiving.

We asked

We asked you whether our draft guidance for registrants on disclosing confidential information about patients:

  • was clear and accessible and made it clear when disclosing information might be necessary to protect the public interest;
  • what impact (if any) the guidance would have on registrant confidence in disclosing confidential information; and
  • whether there was anything additional that we could do to make the decisionmaking process easier in situations where confidential information might need to be disclosed.

You said

280 of you – including optometrists, dispensing opticians, students, businesses, stakeholder bodies and members of the public – provided your views on the guidance and told us:

  • Overall, the guidance was clear and made the GOC’s expectations clear, but in some areas the language used could be clarified;
  • Some amendments to the structure of the guidance would make the decisionmaking process clearer; and
  • A number of additional activities around communication would help support registrants to use the guidance effectively.

As part of the consultation, there was also desire from some stakeholders to see a requirement of automatic notification to the DVLA/DVA if a patient does not meet the vision standards for driving. Whilst we understand the desire for this, previous research (and the consultation itself) supports a discretionary approach so as not to deter patients from seeking eye care and to safeguard (so far as possible) the relationship of trust between patient and practitioner.

We did

We took every piece of feedback we received into account and where possible, made the suggested amendments – particularly in relation to tightening up language. We also restructured part of the guidance to include a step-by-step approach to disclosing information and supported this with a flow chart to make the decision-making process clearer.

In terms of supportive communications, we have been liaising with key stakeholders in advance of publication to ensure that communications can be joint and aligned where appropriate.

Results updated 21 Feb 2020

The consultation closed in June 2019 and the report is available to access or download here:

Original consultation


Some registrants and members of the public have requested more clarity about when to disclose confidential information in the public interest. We have therefore developed draft guidance on disclosing confidential information which covers the following:

  1. General principles of disclosing confidential information, with or without consent
  2. What to do when a patient may not be fit to drive as a result of their vision
  3. Other disclosures in the public interest
  4. Disclosing information in compliance with investigations

We are interested in hearing registrants' and other stakeholders' views on the draft guidance and its potential impact. 

Here is an infographic of recent research we have undertaken showing that, in particular, registrants are not confident in what to do if a patient's vision means they may not be fit to drive (the full research report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page).

Why your views matter

Our purpose is to protect the public. It is therefore vital that patients and the public have a strong input into our work to give us a viewpoint from the people that the GOC is in place to protect.

We focus on the evidence and reasoning given in consultation responses, making primarily qualitative analysis of the responses. Decisions are never made on strength of numbers. Our decisions are made on the basis of the strength of the arguments put to us and how well they match with our core principles.

We will publish feedback after the consultation giving the outcome and how we will implement the policy changes.