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Fit to Drive
‘He shouldn't be driving!’ You’ve probably heard that expression, it may be about someone you know or someone you work with. What are the rules about fitness to drive, say for someone with mental health or physical health problems? I’ve come across a recently amended guide by the DVLA (At a glance guide to the current medical standards of fitness to drive) aimed at doctors who are concerned about their patient’s safeness to drive. You can view the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/
The first issue the guide addresses is that drivers themselves are responsible for dealing with whether they believe they may be unfit to drive by reporting their own condition to the DVLA. People over 70 years of age have to reapply for a licence every three years, but again this is on the basis of a self-assessment on fitness to drive. So what if a GP thinks their patient shouldn’t be driving? Well the DVLA points to guidelines by the General Medical Council which says that if a GP is concerned about the person’s ability to drive, then the doctor should discuss with the person, and if appropriate try to persuade them to declare themselves not fit. Only if all that persuasion fails should the doctor report this. The guide includes a pro-forma for doing this.
Mental health conditions
The guide includes chapters on a number of physical and mental conditions which can guide doctors to make a judgement about fitness to drive. There is a chapter in the guide which describes features of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, dementia, and learning disability and describes what features and their severity might pose a risk if people with those disorders were still driving. The guide makes it clear that having a mental disorder is not a bar to driving, the factors that practitioners should be looking at are severity of symptoms, likelihood of relapse, and how long the person’s period of mental well-being has been stable.
Now this guide is geared to medical practitioners, but if there’s someone you are working with that you’ve got concerns about, it might be worth looking at what the guide says. Of course the guidance from the DVLA says it is up to the licence holder to declare their fitness, and if not then their GP may have to intervene. As you can imagine, patient confidentiality may be an issue, but if you’re concerned, make the person’s GP aware.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor