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If you are deemed to have a medical condition that no longer means you are fit to drive, then you are asked to surrender your licence to the DVLA until you are fit enough to once again get behind the wheel. It is usually your doctor that decides whether or not you are fit to drive, however, you can surrender your licence of your own accord if you feel that you are unsafe. If you fail to tell the DVLA about a medical condition, ignore doctor’s advice and continue to drive then you could be facing a fine of up to £1000. If you are involved in an accident as a result of your medical condition, you can be prosecuted. If your doctor bans you from driving for a small period of time (under three months) you must adhere to their instruction, but you will not have to give up your licence. If it is over three months, you will need to send your licence back to the DVLA. If your condition worsens at any time, the DVLA must be notified and you will need to be re-assessed.
Drivers Medical Group
There are medical fitness tests conducted by the DVLA that will assess whether or not a person is fit to drive. Of course, the decision is potentially life-changing as a lot of people rely on their ability to drive to perform essential, everyday tasks such as driving to work and doing the school run and so the DVLA should only ban people from driving when it is absolutely necessary and they are a danger to themselves and others on the road. Recent reports have said that there have been ‘major failings’ in the DVLA fitness to drive medical tests that have left people’s lives on hold due to bad decision making. These failings have been found recently by The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report in the case of eight drivers. The Drivers Medical Group, who makes the decisions on a person’s right to drive has been highly criticised over the findings – of the 750, 000 cases they deal with every year, only 10% are actually examined by a medical expert.
In these cases, the drivers had been prevented from driving for a number of years and when the report looked into the reasons why, they found a significant number of inappropriate decisions, major delays and generally poor communication as well as insufficient complaint handling. The delays and bad decisions meant that some of the drivers were prevented from being behind the wheel when it was not necessary and the report feared that these practices could be repeated, resulting in more people left, unfairly, without a licence. In one case, a man diagnosed with Bipolar disorder was refused his licence to drive lorries by the DVLA, even though he was deemed medically fit to drive by both his GP and a psychiatrist. After initially being refused, and providing more information to fight his case, there was such a delay in the decision that his employer had no choice but to let him go. There are now calls for something to be done about the seemingly inadequate assessments put in place by the Drivers Medical Group.
Just a Tick in a Box…
One of the major flaws in the medical testings is that many of the cases claimed that they did not see anyone face to face for testing and instead were asked to complete a series of tick box exercises which was supposed to be sufficient for them to assess every single person, despite everyone being individual and most cases being unique. The report has called for the DVLA to take immediate action in changing the way that they assess people with medical conditions so that they are given a fair and thorough assessment, depending on each individual case. There are calls for those that have already been affected by failures, to receive compensation. Chief executive of the DVLA claims that they have already begun to put improvements in place in the form of taking on more staff and introducing a new online service where drivers can explain to the DVLA about their medical conditions in significant detail. The DVLA have accepted the devastating impact their wrong decisions have had on the lives of specific cases, such as the loss of jobs causing stress, isolation, and worry.
Of course, there is definitely a balance that needs to be found when it comes to finding who and who are not medically fit to drive, as letting people with medical conditions that affect their driving, keep their licence, can, of course, have potentially fatal consequences. The report concluded that the tests currently in place are definitely not fit for purpose and calls for changes to the assessments as soon as possible.