Monday, April 19News For London

Glasgow bin man hid his medical history before last year’s tragic accident

Mourners for the victims of last year’s bin lorry tragedy in Glasgow.   Credit: Michel (Flickr)




A Glasgow bin lorry driver could have avoided the deaths of six people if he had: “told the whole truth” about his medical history.

Harry Clarke, 58, lost consciousness at the wheel of his vehicle on 22 December 2014. It then careened out of control into 23 people, leaving six dead.

At a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Glasgow Sherriff Court, Sherriff John Beckett pointed out eight ways the tragic accident could have been avoided, all of which related to his hidden medical past.

Clarke was found to have suffered: “an episode of neurocardiogenic syncope”, one of the commonest causes of fainting.

Syncope is just one of a long list of conditions that drivers may need to inform authorities about including diabetes, epilepsy and anorexia.

Drivers are supposed to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) if they have a medical condition which could cause them to: “become incapacitated at the wheel.”

Matthew, a 21 year old with Type 1 diabetes described dealing with the DVLA: “It’s pretty easy, it’s just a case of sending a form off and getting a new license a few weeks later. Though it’s frustrating to need someone else’s permission to drive.”

Sherriff Beckett suggested that doctors could be given greater freedom to tell the DVLA about patients who may be driving unsafely. He even suggested that Parliament could give doctors a legal obligation to tell the DVLA.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said that their guidance already allowed doctors to breach patient confidentiality if they felt their patient posed a risk to the public, without fear of disciplinary action.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive, said: “Doctors carrying out their duty will not face any sanction.”

The Crown Office responded to the report by saying: “There are no findings in the determination that undermine the decisions not to prosecute the driver.” The DVLA said they are: “carefully considering the recommendations in the report.”