Exclusive The BMA is planning to complain to the DVLA after it asked people with revoked driving licenses to seek a GP assessment before re-applying.
Previously, the DVLA had simply written to request medical notes from GPs in light of applications, rather than sending patients to their GP for a medical assessment before applying.
The BMA’s GP Committee said it appeared as if the authority was ‘trying to cut their own workload by reducing applications that will ultimately be unsuccessful’ and the BMA’s Professional Fees Committee said the work was not part of the GP contract and would require a fee to be paid.
The DVLA’s letter, sent to patients earlier this month, said: ‘Before returning the application you should check with your doctor(s) that you are able to satisfy the medical standards for driving.’
The DVLA said the decision to approach patients to seek a medical assessment, rather than requesting medical information from the patient’s GP, was recent and taken on a ‘case-by-case basis’.
A spokesperson said: ‘In certain conditions, we may send the referral letter to the patient instead of to the GP directly. This does not mean that the requirements for the patient’s GP have changed in any way.
‘To be clear, we are not suggesting that the customer needs any type of assessment by a doctor. A long standing feature of driver licensing requirements is that we ask drivers to confirm that they can meet the medical standards for safe driving before re-applying for a licence. It is the driver’s own responsibility to ensure that they can meet these standards at all times while driving – this is a legal requirement.
‘Drivers may choose to contact their GP to confirm this, but this does not require the GP to necessarily perform an examination with the patient or meet with the patient face-to-face.’
Responding to the letter, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Whilst the DVLA appear to be trying to cut their workload by reducing applications that will ultimately be unsuccessful, the consequence is a potential increase in workload for GPs.’
BMA Professional Fees Committee chair Dr Peter Holden said the BMA will raise a complaint with the DVLA explaining ‘the work is not GMS and often needs specialist opinion’, and will be subject to a fee.
He said: ‘The DVLA will doubtless argue that all they want the GP to do is cross check their records that there is nothing which conflicts with the DVLA’s [rules on fitness to drive].
‘[But] that is factual, not an opinion, and will still be chargeable as it takes time, effort and expense.’
The argument comes as Labour MP Harriet Harman caused debate last year when she suggested that GPs should certify whether their patients aged over 75 are fit to drive as part of an annual health check.
The GMC updated guidance in 2015 to say that GPs must report patients to the DVLA who continue to drive against medical advice, in cases where they knew this to be the case.
However, this measure should only be taken as a last resort, if the patient has failed to contact the DVLA or DVA themselves, it added.