Patients requiring fitness-to-drive certificates should no longer be allowed to bypass their GP, the BMA has said.
It called on the Government to guarantee a ‘safety-first’ process to manage the backlog – which it estimates stands at more than 200,000.
It comes as updated BMA and RCGP workload prioritisation guidance said that DVLA medical checks and other ‘previously deprioritised work’ may need completing to maintain people’s wellbeing and business.
The BMA is ‘gravely concerned’ that patients needing fitness-to-drive assessments from their GP are ‘bypassing the queue’ at their practice, it said in a letter to the Department of Transport.
The option of going to any registered medical practitioner – who will not have access to the patient’s full medical history – for the certificate must be removed because it is ‘neither sensible nor safe’, it added.
More than 200,000 drivers are in the backlog of applications for medical assessments needed to renew their licence, with the number growing by thousands each month, according to the BMA.
This includes HGV drivers whose licence expiry dates were extended earlier in the pandemic but are now up for renewal, as well as other licence holders who need fitness-to-drive assessments, it said.
The BMA said that while the backlog may be addressed sooner by bypassing GPs, the Government must guarantee a ‘safety-first’ approach that involves the patient’s own GP both for the ‘integrity’ of the DVLA licensing system and to maintain road safety.
BMA professional fees committee chair Dr Peter Holden said: ‘Across the country, thousands of drivers require medical “fit to drive” sign off in order to obtain or renew their drivers’ licence. We know that some of these drivers, aware of the current DVLA backlog, are bypassing the queue at their own GP practice and going to third-party registered medical practitioners.
‘The issue here is that only an individual’s GP practice has access to a patient’s full medical record so only they know whether or not that person is fit to drive. By seeking sign-off from an independent practitioner, who only has the patient’s word to go by, there’s a risk that medical conditions may be, either intentionally or unintendedly, understated and this has already had a grave impact on road safety.’
The Government must ensure an applicant’s own GP is involved in the process and be honest with the public about how long the backlog will take to clear so that ‘patients do not start making multiple calls to their GP practice while they wait for medical assessments’, he added.