The DVLA Is Wasting Your Money and My Time


One of the joys of my life is that I am a type 1 diabetic. For those of you not in the know that means that I get to inject insulin four times a day, which is actually not a problem.  I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years (I got late onset diabetes) and most of the time most days it has zero effect upon my life.  But once a year it becomes an absolute pain in the butt, and it’s the EU’s fault.

Let me explain.  I passed a driving test in 1980, at which time you also got the right to drive any vehicle up to 7.5 tons laden weight.  When I got diabetes I had to (rightly) notify DVLA, and they checked with my doctor once every 3 years to make sure that I was managing it well etc. etc.  As I see a doctor about every 6 months to check it all, that is no problem.  But then one day the EU reclassified vehicles and all of a sudden I need a type C license, which involves a medical, so I booked into my GP, paid the fee and had the medical. Sent off the forms.

“No”, said DVLA, you must see a consultant.  I tried to point out that my GP is a diabetes ace, but no, it’s a consultant or nothing. Make an appointment and 3 months later he fills in the forms.  I send them off to DVLA.

“System’s changed” said DVLA.  “We need you to see our consultant as you might have coerced your own consultant into signing it by putting pressure on him.  Don’t worry about the fee though, we’ll pay that.”  So I went to see their consultant, 5 minutes no problem and all the boxes ticked.  2 months later I get my shiny new license, with one year to run before I have to go through the medical fiasco again.

Last year it took two half days of my life, plus 100 miles of driving and about ten calls to DVLA.  But why is it necessary?

The fear is obvious – a diabetic running out of sugar may become incapable of driving safely and cause an accident.  Some diabetics know when their blood sugar is falling (called “going hypo”) and some don’t.  Those who don’t generally are not allowed to drive.  For ordinary car license holders the medicals happen once every 3 years.  For those of us with a C1 license, it’s an annual joy.  But why?  The fact that a car weighs a bit more has no effect on the driver in these days of power steering.  OK, so losing control a 7.5 ton truck might cause more damage than going hypo in a 2 ton car (depending upon the speed), but how often does that happen?

After a couple of days on Google I could find only one actual investigation into accident rates caused by diabetes.  It was conducted by Devon and Cornwall police, and showed that actually diabetics had a significantly lower accident rate than normal drivers.  A number of reasons have been postulated, all based around the diabetics paying more attention to their physical condition when driving.  The insurers know this too.  20 years ago very few insurers would cover diabetics.  Now they all will, and there is no additional premium.

So why is the DVLA paying the NHS to waste one consultant’s time checking on the work of another to no public benefit at the considerable inconvenience of many diabetics?

I wrote and asked last year.  Still haven’t had reply.  Time for Mr Osborne to wield his axe.