Doctors should listen when someone close to the patient raises concerns. Receiving information is not in itself a breach of confidentiality, and doctors should not refuse to listen to a patient's partner or carer. Therefore Dr Williams can listen to Mr Jessop's concerns about his wife's health - his views and the information he provides about Mrs Jessop may be helpful in Dr Williams' care of her. But Dr Williams cannot guarantee that she will not tell Mrs Jessop about the conversation. Doctors may need to tell patients about receiving information from people close to them particularly if, for example, the information influences their assessment and treatment of the patient.
The Data Protection Act 1998 gives patients the right to have access to their personal information - including information about them provided by other people (like Mr Jessop's concerns about his wife). But there are some exceptions. For example doctors do not have to supply a patient with information about another person unless that other person consents, or unless it is reasonable in the circumstances to supply the information without their consent. Because Mr Jessop did not give his consent for Dr Williams to tell his wife about his visit, Dr Williams would not have to tell Mrs Jessop about his visit. However, Dr Williams could decide to tell her (and indeed she does warn Mr Jessop that she might) because she felt that it was reasonable to do so without his consent.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - or the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland - are legally responsible for deciding if a person is unfit to drive. So they have to know if a driver has a condition that may now, or in the future, affect their safety as a driver. While it is the driver themselves who is legally responsible for informing the DVLA or DVA if they have such a condition, there are certain circumstances where doctors should take action.
When a diagnosis has first been made doctors should explain to the patient that the condition may affect their ability to drive, and that they have a legal duty to inform the DVLA or DVA about the condition themselves. In Mrs Jessop's case, although a diagnosis has not yet been made, a number of incidents have raised concern about her fitness to drive, which is why Dr Williams suggests that she refrain from driving until the test results come back.
If a patient continues to drive when they may not be fit to do so, and if their doctor has made every reasonable effort to persuade them to stop then the doctor should contact the DVLA or DVA immediately, telling the patient first if that is possible.