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Driven to despair

Foreword

This report highlights 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.

We have upheld investigations into eight separate complaints where people with complex medical conditions were unfairly prevented from driving, sometimes for several years, as a result of flawed decisions, significant delays, poor communication and complaint handling. We have seen the significant impact that DVLA’s actions have had on people’s lives: causing them to lose their jobs, be cut off from friends and family, and suffer significant stress and frustration. DVLA has accepted our findings and recommendations for all eight cases and in six of them has granted the licence applied for, thereby overturning its own original decision.

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.

Without this, there are risks that people fit to drive will be denied a licence to do so, and others, who pose a risk to the public and themselves, will keep their licence and continue to drive. In coming to our view we have considered evidence, reinforcing our concerns, from a range of organisations and individuals including the Department for Transport’s own Independent Complaints Assessors, the British Medical Association, the International Glaucoma Association, eminent specialists in the area of vision and many driving groups and charities.

The Department for Transport 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. As a result, I am publishing this report in the public interest and laying it before Parliament under Section 10 (4) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

Dame Julie Mellor, DBE

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

October 2016