A new report has highlighted ‘major failings’ in the way the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) makes decisions about whether people with certain medical conditions are safe to drive.
Published on 19 October, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report found people with complex medical conditions were unfairly prevented from driving as a result of ‘flawed decisions, significant delays, poor communication and complaint handling’.
The report investigated eight complaints made to the Ombudsman between April 2014 and March 2015 about the Drivers Medical Group (DMG), the DVLA division that considers whether drivers with a medical condition are safe to drive.
The report found that there were similarities in the eight complaints which point to a ‘potentially wider problem’ with the way DVLA handles fitness to drive cases.
The report concludes that the DVLA’s actions had a ‘significant impact’ on the eight people’s lives: causing them to lose their jobs, be cut off from friends and family, and suffer significant stress and frustration.
The Ombudsman says the DMG is ‘not meeting its obligations’, citing a lack of evidence to relate medical conditions to functional ability to drive safely, and a lack of assessment of how ‘condition specific risks’ might affect road safety.
In the report foreword, Dame Julie Mellor, DBE, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, said: “Our outstanding concerns are two-fold. First, that there will be others who have experienced the same injustice and hardship for whom things have not yet been put right.
“Secondly, that insufficient action has been taken, or is planned, to prevent the same failures being repeated and impacting many more people in the future. In particular, further action is needed to improve the robustness of assessments of fitness to drive for people with certain medical conditions and disabilities.
“The DfT has accepted our findings about the failures we have identified. I am deeply concerned, however, that it has not accepted our recommendations to put things right by providing justice for everyone who may have been affected or by improving the robustness of the criteria applied in future medical assessments.”
Oliver Morley, DVLA chief executive, 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 introducing a new online service where drivers can tell us about their medical conditions."