Driven to despair

Our approach

We make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England, UK government departments and some other UK public organisations. We do this independently and impartially. We are not part of government, the NHS in England or a regulator. We are neither a consumer champion nor arbitrator. We look into complaints where an individual believes there has been injustice or hardship because an organisation has not acted properly or fairly or has provided a poor service and not put things right. 

We normally expect people to complain to the organisation they are unhappy with first, so it has a chance to put things right. If an individual believes there is still a dispute about the complaint after an organisation has responded, they can ask us to look into it. 

We are accountable to Parliament and our work is scrutinised by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Our role is formally set out in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

When conducting our investigations we selected eight complaints that illustrated to us the complainants’ experiences of different aspects of the DMG process, and that enabled us to take a wider look at the processes it followed and the problems identified in the individual cases. This report summarises the findings of those investigations and makes wider recommendations for improvement to the system as a whole. 

As part of our work, we have made recommendations to put things right for the complainants whose cases we investigated. This report sets out what more we believe needs to be done to provide a remedy for the wider group of people affected by the problems that we have found in DMG’s system.

During the course of our investigations we visited DMG twice, carried out interviews with, and shadowed, a range of its staff, and met with senior managers. We also liaised with, and gathered evidence from the Department for Transport and the Independent Complaints Assessors (ICAs)11 . We met with the Chair of one of the Panels and observed a Panel meeting. We also conducted a workshop with several of the people who complained to us and spoke at length on the telephone with others. We took account of the evidence they provided in support of their complaints. 

We considered the relevant legislation, policy, and guidance and looked to see how fitness to drive might relate to other assessments (for example, local authority road safety schemes, fitness to work assessments, occupational health). We also looked at other relevant research about medical conditions that affect fitness to drive. This came from charities and other organisations with members affected by DMG investigations, including the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) and the Freight Transport Association. 

We consulted with several relevant stakeholder groups, including driving organisations and relevant charities,12 to learn more about the experiences of those involved from different perspectives, and to get a sense of the scale of the problem. While we have not included in this report all the information we have seen for the purpose of this investigation, we are satisfied that nothing of significance has been left out. 

11 Independent Complaints Assessors (ICAs) review complaints about the administrative actions of the Department for Transport and its agencies. The service is independent of the Department for Transport. There are certain limitations to their role. In particular, they are not able to comment on Departmental or Agency policies.

12 Diabetes UK; Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust; International Glaucoma Association; National Association of Disabled Bikers; Parkinsons UK; Age UK; British Motorcyclist Federation; Sleep Apnoea Trust; Institute of Advanced Motorists; Road Haulage Association; Confederation of Passenger Transport; Freight Transport Association; RAC Foundation; the AA; General Medical Council; British Medical Association; GOLD scheme; SAGE scheme; Business Disability Forum; Phil and Friends; Health Management Limited.