Don’t go private to beat DVLA queues, says BMA

The BMA is urging Government action to stop motorists going to an independent practitioner for a driving licence medical instead of their NHS GP.

Over 200,000 people are estimated to be waiting for medical assessments so they can renew their driving licences and the figure is growing by thousands every month. 

Desperate patients, including all HGV licence applicants, have been trying to beat the backlog by going private.

But the doctors’ union is concerned this could be unsafe because the independent practitioner would not have the medical record. 

The BMA has written to the junior transport minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, expressing ‘concerns that this style of self-reporting is neither sensible nor safe’. 

According to BMA Professional Fees Committee chairman Dr Peter Holden, GPs and their teams are ‘gravely concerned’ about the potential impact on road safety.

His letter to the Baroness Vere says that although seeking ‘fit-to-drive’ sign-off from any registered medical practitioner may ease the DVLA backlog, safety must be a priority.

Dr Holden, an NHS GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, said: ‘Across the country, thousands of drivers require medical “fit-to-drive” sign-off in order to obtain or renew their driver’s’ 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 practice 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. It is also important that the Government and DVLA 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.’

An extension to licence expiry dates brought in earlier in the pandemic has now ended.

Standard driving licence holders are currently advised to request fitness-to-drive assessments from their GP, but they can opt to go to any registered medical practitioner.