Motorists who need medical clearance to obtain a driving licence should be able to get approval more quickly following a change in the law.
From 20 July, the DVLA has relaxed its rules on who can carry out medical questionnaires in an effort to cut a backlog and ease pressure on doctors.
The questionnaires assess a person’s fitness to drive and are used for new licence applications and licence renewals.
Until now only doctors registered with the General Medical Council were permitted to complete the questionnaires but, following a consultation, the change to the Road Traffic Act 1988 means doctors can now refer the task to qualified healthcare workers from other professional bodies.
This includes specialist nurses and opticians, who will be able to provide information where a driver has declared a medical condition on a licence application.
The DVLA says the change will speed up the licensing process for hundreds of thousands of motorists, who have faced significant delays in the processing of medical applications.
DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard said: “Every year we are receiving an increasing number of medical licensing applications from drivers.
“This law change, which widens the pool of healthcare professionals who can complete DVLA questionnaires, improves the process for those notifying DVLA of medical conditions whilst reducing the administrative burden on doctors, benefitting drivers and the NHS alike”.
In October last year, the British Medical Association raised concerns that a huge backlog in medical checks could lead to unfit drivers being allowed on the road as they bypassed their regular doctor to gain approval to drive.
It estimated that as many as 200,000 drivers were waiting on medical clearance to drive and some were being tempted to turn to other practitioners who didn’t know their full history rather than waiting for an appointment with their own GP.
It warned that this could lead to some drivers being approved for a licence despite not being medically fit to drive.
Every year the DVLA makes around 500,000 decisions on motorists’ suitability to drive, using the medical questionnaires completed by a doctor or consultant as the basis for many of these decisions.
While July’s change affects medical questionnaires, it does not apply to the more in-depth D4 Medical Examination Report which will still need to be completed by a doctor or consultant who is registered with the GMC.