The DVLA has introduced new guidelines on reporting Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) that could help professional drivers ensure they get treatment while continuing to drive for a living without posing risks.
The condition is believed to affect 1.4 million people in the UK and affects breathing while sleeping, stopping sufferers from getting a good night’s rest. For commercial drivers, this could bring risks of falling asleep at the wheel.
Following an EU Directive in January 2016 that changed the DVLA requirements for reporting OSA – causing confusion for both healthcare professionals and patients – there have now been some changes to the guidance provided for medical professionals when assessing whether a patient should drive, and whether they should contact the DVLA.
The changes mean that if a driver is diagnosed with OSA, but does not suffer from excessive sleepiness that could have an adverse effect on driving, they may continue to drive as normal and do not need to notify the DVLA.
Meanwhile if a driver has sleepiness that does have an adverse effect on driving, and it is suspected that they might have OSA, they should stop driving but do not have to notify the DVLA until the diagnosis has been confirmed.
Once a diagnosis of OSA is confirmed, the driver must stop driving and must notify the DVLA – it’s recommended this is done in writing as the treatment for OSA is very effective and the symptoms could be resolved by the time the the DVLA sends through the paperwork to be completed.
The changes have been greeted by the Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group, which has been working with healthcare professionals to encourage fast tracked treatment for vocational drivers, and also with the DVLA to try to simplify the process of reporting OSA.
Simon Peevers, a spokesman for RAC Business, which is an active member of the group, said: “It is vital that the fleet sector is aware of the recent announcement from DVLA regarding Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and driving for business.
“It is not an exaggeration to say it could save lives, and certainly livelihoods, if drivers who suspect they may have the symptoms feel they can come forward and get the treatment they need without losing their licence, or posing a danger on the roads.
“We would urge fleet managers to make themselves aware of the condition if they’re not already, and more importantly how to get those who are suffering, access to the highly effective treatment they need, so they don’t lose valuable drivers.”