Disclosing confidential information about patients (including where patients may not be fit to drive): draft guidance for GOC registrants

Closed 13 Jun 2019

Opened 21 Mar 2019

Feedback updated 21 Feb 2020

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We asked you whether our draft guidance for registrants on disclosing confidential information about patients: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



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. 

Below is a summary 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 from the 'Related' box at the bottom of this page):

Your browser does not support inline PDF viewing.Please download the PDF.

NB: If you are a stakeholder body or organisation, and are not able to respond to the online survey, you can find a PDF copy of the consultation questions in the 'Related' box at the bottom of this page, along with a copy of the draft guidance.

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.

Privacy Statement

The information you provide to us, the GOC (as data controller), will be processed and used in line with our statutory purpose under the Opticians Act as a public task in order to set standards for optical education and training, performance and conduct. For more information regarding how we process your data please see the full privacy statement on our website. 

Right to Erasure

Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulations provides data with the right to erasure; this is known as the right to be forgotten. Right to erasure requests should be sent to the Data Protection Officer (FOI@optical.org) and will be responded to within one calendar month of receipt. 

Data Controller

We are registered as a data controller with the Information Commissoner's Office, registration number Z5718812. We are committed to maintaining robust information governance policies and processes to ensure compliance with relevant legislation. Any information you supply will be stored and processed by us or on our behalf, by approved and verified third parties, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection Act 2018.

What happens next

The feedback provided by our stakeholders as part of this consultation survey will be analysed and as a result, the guidance may be clarified, amended or expanded. We will publish the main areas of feedback, as well as how we have used it, on the "We Asked, You Said, We Did" area of the GOC consultation hub.