British medical association expresses concern over some driver medicals
The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that there are as many as 200,000 motorists who still need a medical for their driving licence application. However, despite the backlog, the BMA has said that drivers ought to get their medical from their own GP rather than going through an independent private company.
As it stands, drivers in the UK may get medical confirmation from any registered doctor. A number of commercial entities even offer dedicated driver medical services in order to speed up the process, some of which are endorsed by popular truck blogger and vloggers.
The BMA has nonetheless warned that only a GP with access to a person’s full medical history has the required information to make a safe and proper judgement on whether someone is fit to drive a lorry.
In a letter to Department of Transport parliamentary under secretary of state Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Dr Peter Holden, BMA professional fees committee chair, said that although the current system may help to alleviate the backlog, it also comes with safety risks.
The BMA representative also wants the UK Government to ensure there is a process in place that involves the GP of each applicant:
“Across the country, thousands of drivers require medical ‘fit to drive’ sign-off in order to obtain or renew their drivers’ licence. We know that some of these drivers, aware of the current DVLA backlog, are bypassing the queue at their own GP practice and going to third party registered medical practitioners. The issue here is that only an individual’s GP practices has access to a patient’s full medical record, so only they know whether or not that person is fit to drive. By seeking ‘sign-off’ from an independent practitioner, who only has the patient’s word to go by, there’s a risk that medical conditions may be, either intentionally or unintendedly, understated and this has already had a grave impact on road safety. With this in mind, the Government must ensure that there is a process in place to involve an applicant’s GP.”
In the letter, Dr Holden referred to the fatal bin lorry accident that occurred in Glasgow in December 2014. It turned out that the driver responsible for the accident suffered from various health issues that he had kept secret from the DVLA and his employers. Holden fears that it is just a “question of time” before another accident occurs due to poor driver health.
The BMA has thus called for the licencing system to include medicals in which a driver’s full medical history is available:
“We believe that it is crucial for the integrity of the DVLA licensing system and, more importantly for the safety of all, that medical professionals providing medical input into an individual’s suitability to drive have access to all the necessary information contained in a patient’s full medical record.”
Moreover, Holden wants the UK authorities to make the public aware of the current backlog in order to manage expectations:
“It is also important that the Government and DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) are honest with the public regarding just how long this backlog will take to clear so that expectations are managed, and patients do not start making multiple calls to their GP practice while they wait for medical assessments.”
In order to alleviate the current backlog, the DVLA says it bringing in extra staff and introducing evening shifts.