New report shows major failings by DVLA

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Findings reveal instances where drivers with complex medical conditions and disabilities have difficulties when trying to re-obtain their driving licences.

A recent report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman exposes major failings by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in determining people’s fitness to drive. In many cases, it’s left drivers unable to work and isolated from friends and family.

The investigation exposes eight specific instances where drivers with complicated medical conditions and disabilities were wrongfully left without driving licences – sometimes for several years – due to flawed decisions, long delays and poor communication.

Drivers stuck without licences for years

In one instance, a lorry driver who suffered a heart attack was forced to wait 17 months for a reverse on a decision which removed his licence – despite being symptom free – and consequently lost his business during that time. In another complaint, one piano teacher who had suffered a stroke but fully recovered couldn’t drive for years as a result of DVLA failures – leaving her distressed, unable to work and socially isolated.

It’s also been found that the DVLA even misinterpreted a note from a doctor that explained because their patient suffered chronic fatigue syndrome he may struggle to keep up with any paperwork and that should be taken into account should he be late submitting documents to the DVLA. Unfortunately, the DVLA incorrectly assumed that this meant his medical condition would affect his ability to drive and wrongfully decided to remove his licence a few days after receiving the doctor’s letter.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor explains, “People’s lives have been put on hold for years because of severe delays and flawed decisions by the DVLA, leading people to lose their jobs, causing stress, worry and isolation.”

How has the DVLA failed drivers?

The eight complaints investigated by the Ombudsman service were similar enough to encourage a wider review and investigation into the way the DVLA handles medical fitness to drive cases. In the report highlights that the DVLA is not meeting its obligations in the following areas:

  • Fitness to drive: Tests are not fit for purpose and don’t consider all of the evidence such as doctors’ medical reports
  • The process in assessing people with medical conditions and disabilities is flawed and lacks the proper standards necessary
  • Any guidance about the processes is not easily accessible to drivers or to the medical profession, making it hard for doctors to office and advice
  • The DVLA’s manner in handling complaints has been determined as poor and defensive

Next steps for the DVLA...

Since numerous drivers have been affected by the wrongdoings of the DVLA, the report recommends that it should implement appropriate arrangements to put things right with those who have suffered, including financial compensation for certain cases.

“The DVLA has accepted our findings and has taken steps to address some of the failures indentified such as producing a new guide for medical professionals and improving its complaint handling and communications.”

The report also suggests that the DVLA make efforts to improve the way it communicates with not only licence applicants, but also with medical professionals, by using updated and comprehensive standards to fairly assess drivers with medical conditions. Without the use of robust standards, there’s a risk that people who are fit to drive are denied a licence, and people who may pose a risk to road safety will keep their licences and continue to drive.

Despite the DVLA accepting some of the report’s recommendations, Julie Mellor explains that more can still be done:

“But further action is needed to make the assessments of fitness to drive more robust, to prevent others from suffering the same injustice in the future.”

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