Major failings in the way the DVLA is assessing drivers’ fitness to hold a vocational licence has left drivers no choice but to resign from jobs or turn down employment.
An investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found a number of shortcomings in the way licence applications and renewals were handled by the Drivers Medical Group (DMG), the division of the DVLA which considers whether drivers with a medical condition are fit to drive.
The flaws included delays in making decisions, poor communication with drivers, ignoring information provided by the drivers’ own GP, and failing to properly consider how a person’s medical condition impacts on their ability to drive.
It comes after Commercialmotor.com found that drivers who require medical checks face delays of up to 31 weeks due to a backlog of licence renewal cases.
Among the cases the Ombudsman investigated was an HGV driver who had a heart attack in 2008 and had his vocational licence revoked in 2011. The driver’s consultant was satisfied he was fit enough to drive, but there was little contact between the DMG and the GP to assess his situation.
Another vocational driver was unable to take up a job he had been offered due to delays, and another had to resign from his job.
In a third example, a driver who had suffered a skull facture after falling from the back of his truck, had to downsize his home and sell his belongings while he was waiting for DVLA to declare him fit to drive.
Its report, published today (20 October), said the delays experienced by drivers were unreasonable.
The Ombudsman made several recommendations that included the DVLA producing a clear set of standards to determine how risk is calculated; ensuring that information is easily available and understood by applicants and medical professionals; and that appropriate redress is given to those who have been faced with delays.
The report said the DVLA has since made changes to its communication processes so that it is now “more likely” to inform licence holders that their case is being delayed, and recruited both caseworkers and medical advisers.
It has also started to investigate multiple conditions simultaneously, rather than consecutively, and has made changes so that fewer professional drivers need to have their cases assessed by the DMG.
DVLA chief executive Oliver Morley said:
“We are sorry for the way we handled the customers’ cases highlighted in the report.
“These eight very complex cases, however, date back to 2009 and since then the vast majority of the four million cases we’ve handled have been dealt with swiftly and correctly.
“We have already made a number of improvements including more effective ways of managing cases, taking on more staff and introduced a new online service where drivers can tell us about their medical conditions.”