Optometrists now able to complete DVLA medical questionnaires

An increased number of healthcare professionals will now be able to complete medical questionnaires that were previously restricted to doctors, the DVLA has announced

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Optometrists are now permitted to complete Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) medical questionnaires that were previously restricted to doctors, it was announced last week.

A change to the Road Traffic Act 1988 means that, as of 20 July, an increased number of healthcare professionals can complete a DVLA medical questionnaire if they are notified by a doctor of a condition that could affect a patient’s driving.

Doctors are now able to refer medical questionnaires to other healthcare professionals, including optometrists, the announcement said, although there will be no obligation for them to do so. 

The DVLA will continue to send questionnaires to doctors and consultants, who will then be permitted to refer to whichever healthcare professional they feel is best placed to complete the questionnaire.

The DVLA hopes that the change will speed up elements of the medical licencing process, as well as reducing the burden on doctors.

DVLA Chief Executive, Julie Lennard, noted that “Every year we are receiving an increasing number of medical licensing applications from drivers.”

She added: “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.”

A consultation in 2021 found that 82% of respondents would be supportive of the change.

The consultation did not originally include optometrists on the list of healthcare professionals that could be included.

The AOP noted at the time, however, that “optometrists are well placed to complete these forms both as a regulated healthcare profession, but also being best placed to assess the patient’s visual status, which is a crucial part of being able to drive safely.”

The AOP’s response made it clear that “this move could potentially reduce the administrative burden on GP colleagues and is in line with the Department of Health and Social Care aims of reducing bureaucracy,” enabling “GPs to focus more time on seeing patients and less time on completing paperwork.”

The association also emphasised that funding to cover optometrists’ time would need to be made available if the change was to go ahead.

The announcement made on 20 July confirmed the General Optical Council on the list of professional councils whose registered members can now fill in the medical questionnaires.

Head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard, welcomed the update to the law.

“The changes aim to reduce the burden on GPs by making use of the expertise of other healthcare professionals, and were supported by the AOP during consultation,” Leonard said.

He added that the AOP will be publishing further guidance for members on the changes shortly.