Dr Nicola Lennard
The DVLA's guidance for medical professionals to help them assess whether a patient is fit to drive has been updated.
Assessing Fitness to Drive: A Guide for Medical Professionals aims to help medical professionals make an informed decision when talking to patients about conditions which could affect their ability to drive.
It includes updated advice on a wide range of medical conditions, with sections on neurological, visual, cardiovascular and psychiatric disorders (among others) and clarifies whether DVLA needs to be contacted.
The DVLA also points out that, 'while there are a number of conditions which must be reported to the DVLA, it doesn’t mean a patient will lose their licence if they suffer from that health condition. The majority will be able to keep their entitlement either on a full licence or a short-term licence.'
The new guide includes symbols against each condition clearly indicating whether the patient must not drive, might be allowed to drive subject to medical advice and/or notifying the DVLA, or may drive and need not notify the DVLA.
If you're concerned that a patient has a medical condition that may affect their ability to drive, the DVLA guidance explains that you should:
- advise the individual on the impact of their medical condition for safe driving ability
- advise the individual on their legal requirement to notify the DVLA of any relevant condition
- treat, manage and monitor the individual's condition with ongoing consideration of their fitness to drive
- notify the DVLA when fitness to drive requires notification but an individual cannot or will not notify the DVLA themselves.
The GMC has produced specific guidance for doctors on disclosing information to the DVLA, which is currently being reviewed.
It is the driver's legal responsibility to inform the DVLA of any condition that might affect safe driving. The patient can make this notification online via GOV.UK in England, Scotland and Wales or nidirect.gov.uk in Northern Ireland, and it's a criminal offence for the driver not to do so. The decision about whether the patient's licence will be withdrawn rests with the DVLA, not the doctor.
If you're still uncertain if the condition reaches the threshold, you can discuss the case anonymously with a DVLA medical adviser between 10.30am and 1pm on their helpline 01792 782 337. You can also email or write to them, with these contact details also available in the new guidance.
What happens after the DVLA is notified?
The DVLA will make medical enquiries after being notified of a person's medical condition, including from the driver and from healthcare professionals. It says the time taken to obtain these reports can be lengthy, and it is for the patient to assure themselves during this period if they are fit to drive.
If the patient seeks advice about their fitness to drive during this period, the DVLA says you should use the information in the guide to explain the likely outcome and whether or not it's safe for them to drive while the medical enquiries are carried out.
The DVLA adds that, 'Patients must be reminded that if they choose to ignore medical advice to stop driving this may affect their insurance cover.'
Dr Nicola Lennard
MBChB MD FRCS(General Surgery) GDL
Nicola completed her post graduate training in general and vascular surgery before taking up post, initially as a senior medical officer, then Deputy Medical Director in the medical devices division of the MHRA. She joined the MDU as a medico-legal advisor in 2013 and completed her graduate diploma in law in 2014.
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