The move comes just weeks after the government announced in its GP access plan that it was ‘looking at opportunities’ to increase the range of medical professionals able to complete the DVLA forms.
The consultation, which runs until 6 December, proposes amending the Road Traffic Act 1998 to enable healthcare professionals other than GMC-registered doctors to complete DVLA medical questionnaires.
However, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey has previously warned that reducing workload on DVLA checks will have a limited impact on intense workload pressure in general practice - calling it a ‘mere drop in the ocean’.
By law all drivers must meet the medical standards for fitness to drive, with the DVLA making half a million medical licensing decisions each year, often requiring questionnaires to be completed by the driver’s doctor.
The DVLA argues that, in many cases, health professionals such as nurse practitioners are ‘equally placed’ to complete the questionnaire because they may be more involved in a patient's treatment.
The consultation says it does not seek to replace the role of doctors in the licensing process, but simply to create flexibility for individual GP practices and hospital teams around how they allocate questionnaires for completion within healthcare teams.
It said: 'This proposal would reduce the administrative burdens on doctors and allow other healthcare professionals to assist with responding from enquiries from DVLA on behalf of the secretary of state, providing a more streamlined system which in turn will free up resources in doctors’ surgeries and hospital teams.'
DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard said: ‘Year on year we are seeing an increase in medical licensing applications for drivers and we are continuously looking for ways to improve the process for customers and the medical profession.
‘This proposal would allow a wider pool of healthcare professionals to complete a driver’s medical questionnaire, reducing the burden on GPs and consultants. We are particularly keen to seek views from registered healthcare professionals, medical practitioners and representative bodies within the health sector on making this change.'
A simplified process allowing those with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis to renew their licence was introduced by the government in February, allowing patients to self-declare when there has been stability in their condition with no follow-up with their GP required. The government has said it is looking to add to these changes to cover other conditions.
The BMA has warned that the so-called GP rescue package does not go far enough to reduce bureaucracy on family doctors.
Find a summary of the DVLA fitness to drive guidance on our sister site MIMS Learning here.