Uk News Ministers urged to take fresh look at whether older motorists are safe to drive on UK roads United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! The UK’s system of assessing whether older motorists are safe to drive may no longer be fit for purpose, transport ministers have been warned.Britain’s growing numbers of ageing drivers and the system of assessing whether they are medically fit to continue behind the wheel of a car is challenging the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DVLA) ability to ensure they can do so safely.Fitness to drive fears emerged as MPs quizzed Department for Transport officials and Julie Lennard, chief executive of the DVLA, about delays in issuing driving licences.The Government licensing agency is facing criticism about a massive backlog of outstanding driving licence applications, with 77,000 delayed by more than three months.Two-thirds of the applications still to be dealt with are from people with medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes and heart problems, whose applications take longer to review, MPs were told.Despite setting up a new dedicated unit in Birmingham to deal with the issue, Ms Lennard said many of the delays were due to problems of getting medical experts to assess individual cases.The DVLA employed 43 doctors and eight nurses to examine applications, but it also had to write to individual GPs and specialist consultants to get expert advice on more than 300 different medical conditions which might make it dangerous for a driver to be given a licence.More from BusinessPublic-sector workers face pay squeeze as ministers warn wage watchdogs not to stoke inflation23 November, 2022Reform of credit referencing vital to protect people from problem debt, regulator says22 November, 2022Shoppers urged to use caution as survey shows 'dubious' deals abound21 November, 2022At the height of the pandemic medics’ attention was elsewhere on treating virus victims and delays began occuring.GPs’ fees were not part of their NHS contract but amounted to private work for which they were paid for directly by the DVLA, Ms Lennard said. Case information often had to be sent by secure post for clinical judgements as it was not possible to send the information digitally. This resulted in delays they had little or no control over, she said. There is no upper age limit for driving a car in the UK but all drivers have to renew their driving licence when they reach the age of 70 and every three years from then on. People renewing are asked if there are medical conditions and must meet the eyesight requirements.Emma Ward, the Department for Transport’s director of roads, admitted to MPs on the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the laws surrounding motorists’ medical fitness needed to be re-examined. “We are very concious that the legislation underpinning the driver medical has not been looked at for a very long time.
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. “We have a significant number of over-seventies who hold licences and want to drive.”Ms Ward said that she had already put the issue on the radar of the new Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper.MPs and the DVLA received thousands of letters of complaints as a result of delays said Dame Meg Hillier, PAC chair, many outlining the tragic consequences of the delays, including an elderly man forced to spend an extra £3,000 on public transport in order to be able to visit his wife, who lived with Alzheimer’s, in a care home.Another story she cited was from a bus driver in south-east London saying he was on the brink of losing his livelihood as a bus driver because he was unable to renew his licence in time.Julie Lennard, chief executive of the DVLA, said industrial disputes had added to the delays (Photo: DVLA) Julie Lennard said the DVLA staff were dealing with these letters and thousands more and trying to prioritise them as best they could. Dame Bernadette Kelly, senior civil servant at the Department of Transport said everyone involved were “well aware that it was more than just a numbers game, and that there were real people with real consequences”.The DVLA had a contingency plan before the pandemic which worked well for more than 80 per cent of its work processing licences but that it wasn’t ready as well for staff to work from home, Ms Lennard said. The size and sensitivity of the DVLA’s database posed enormous challenges and only a small number of staff had begun working with laptops. She said 60 per cent of DVLA staff continued to work from their Swansea office after virus protection measures were put in place. The DVLA secured a second property nearby to increase the numbers dealing with applications safely. Ms Lennard said she regretted getting the second office in Swansea as it led to greater delays when Swansea and Wales more widely registered high numbers of Covid infections in a second wave. “I wish, on reflection, we had gotten the office in Birmingham first as it would have given us more resilience.”The committee heard that an industrial dispute also added to their problems. She told MPs that relations with local representatives of the Public and Commercial Services Union were good and productive until national full-time officials became involved in 2021 following reports of high numbers of Covid infections at the DVLA’s Swansea offices.
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