Tighter licence checks needed to avoid sufferers taking to the roads when they have become a danger to the public, doctors will be toldi
Allowing dementia sufferers to drive without checks is as dangerous as letting them roam the streets with a shotgun, doctors will be told today.
DVLA officials, police and GPs are failing adequately to collect and share information, leaving potentially dangerous drivers behind the wheel, the British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Liverpool will hear.
Dr Peter Holden, the GP who tabled the motion, said that under present arrangements only family doctors were in a position to stop dementia sufferers potentially “mowing down” pedestrians and other road users.
He said: “I expect that this would only affect four or five patients per practice where this is an issue, but we wouldn’t accept four or five marauding gunmen.
“There is no one test for dementia, but there are four of five you can make which when you put them together can probably take you in the direction of dementia.”
There is no one test for dementia, Dr Holden says (ALAMY)
Dr Holden called for the DVLA system by which GPs can record patients’ conditions to be updated to accommodate dementia symptoms.
“There needs to be a mechanism for reporting dementia, or if you think it could be dementia. There needs to be an 'anything else we suspect’ question.
“But we would never want to be in the game of it being my say-so that they lose their licence. Medical revocations must be done by the DVLA.”
He said that a lack of public transport had left many dementia sufferers with no alternative but to keep driving.
Police road accident reports did not typically provide an option to record ill health as a factor, he added.
Though no figures are gathered for accidents in which dementia is a factor, Dr Holden estimates there could be several thousand annually.
He said: “Those in the front line know it’s an issue, most of us can say anecdotally in a practice that’s 8,000-10,000, it’s probably five or six cases a year, but would you tolerate five or six gunmen marauding in a year? No you wouldn’t.
“I’ve got a duty to the patient that they don’t put themselves in a position where they mow down a row of kids. Because if I don’t tell them that, who will?
“You know what the rate of increase of dementia is, you only need three or four dementia sufferers out on the road, would you like one out with a shotgun?”
Andrew White, the DVLA’s medical adviser, said: “Licensing rules must ensure we have the right balance between safety and people’s personal mobility.
“We have arrangements with doctors and the police for them to notify us quickly about diagnosed or suspected health problems and we investigate these urgently.” Dementia sufferers must currently notify the DVLA of their diagnosis or face a £1,000 fine. Drivers must also reaffirm their fitness to drive and apply for a new licence every three years after their 70th birthday.
Dr Holden is calling for the BMA’s independent board of science to review the issue.
George McNamara, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Scaremongering is not helpful in making rational decisions in this area. A dementia diagnosis is not in itself a reason to stop driving.”
I personally find this to be an insult, on those living with this illness
After reading this, I was left feeling a little staggered, because for years Doctors have sat back and left it to that patients, to inform the D.V..LA, rather than doing it themselves
I do wonder if this is another form of stigma, as I have seen a lot of elderly people driving, when they clearly should have stopped.
Yet early onset could involve people well under the age of 65
Are we more dangerous than these teenagers, who have no idea what the speed limit means
Some have never gone through the process that people with early onset dementia go through when they are honest enough to tell the authorities.
This then involves getting permission from your doctors and consultants, and then having to reapply every year to get your licence back
I do feel that here again we are victims of the illness, because when it comes to insurance whether for holiday of driving we have to pay extra, and that's for being honest enough to admit that you have the illness in the first place
I have seem fairly elderly people driving a car with a caravan in tow, and some driving motor caravans, even though they were unstable on their legs
Do the doctors tell the authorities when someone has a alcohol or drug problem, I don't think so
So let us hope that common sense is used here before things get out of hand
I admit that I thought mandatory retesting should be done every time someone has a serious medical problem or reaches a certain age, but nothing happens
A motor cyclist has to go through a rigorous testing scheme to get a licence to ride a motor bike, yet car driver can pass a test, and then get behind the wheel of a high powered car.
So yes the licence scheme needs to be reviewed but it must be done properly