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a steering wheel imageJanuary 9 2018

The Primary Care Respiratory Society is flagging up changes to the driving regulations for patients with sleep apnoea. The DVLA has modified its guidance which have been drawn up in consultation with the OSA Alliance representing organisations with an interest in obstructive sleep apnoea.

In an article outlining the changes, the PCRS-UK says the changes have been made to address concerns that the previous interpretation of the 2016 EU directive was causing confusion. This was in part because “the wording implied that in some situations driving should cease (and the DVLA informed) even if there were no symptoms, and before a provisional diagnosis had been confirmed. This led to anxiety over the possible and unnecessary loss of a driving licence.”

Having reconsidered the wording of the EU Directive, the DVLA and OSA Alliance have agreed that the guidance on assessing a driver’s health should take into account three core factors:

  • Stopping driving depends on the presence of sleepiness ‘having, or likely to have, an adverse effect on driving’ (for whatever reason);
  • If OSA is suspected as the explanation for such sleepiness, then driving must cease but the DVLA do not need to be informed until a diagnosis of OSA has been confirmed (ie the sleepiness is diagnosed as being due to the OSA following a sleep study);
  • Once the diagnosis of OSA as the cause has been made the DVLA must be notified by the patient.

Drivers with OSA are being encouraged to contact the DVLA in writing rather than by phone to ensure that there is a consistent response from the DVLA.

The Sleep Apnoea Trust Association is currently advising that although the DVLA has published the clearer guidance, the Gov.UK website has yet to post the amended forms SL1/SL1V or update the online medical reporting service.

The DVLA’s online guidance, ‘Excessive sleepiness – including obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome’, was updated on January 1 with the inclusion of primary/central hypersomnias, including narcolepsy, as conditions also considered under ‘excessive sleepiness’.

Last week, Diabetes UK also flagged up changes made around driving suitability when assessing people experiencing severe hypoglycaemic episodes.

Links:
PCRS-UK statement          
DVLA Guidance ‘Miscellaneous conditions: assessing fitness to drive’          
The Sleep Apnoea Trust Association           
Today’s GP coverage of Diabetes UK announcement on driving assessment               

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