Thursday, 7 April 2016

drive

Not all of the indignities brought about my MS are a direct result of the illness itself.  You might remember that one of the first things I did on diagnosis was to inform the DVLA of my condition.  As a result of this, I had to fill out a medical form listing in absurd detail every stage of my diagnosis, with an apparent need to give the exact dates when I first developed symptoms, first visited my GP about them, first saw the neurologist and first received the diagnosis.  Quite why they needed to know all of that is anyone's guess, given that they ultimately wrote to my neurologist for a medical report anyway.  As a result of that report - which said that I was absolutely fine and that my ability to drive wasn't impaired in any way - my driving licence was re-issued with a three year expiry date and with a few of the categories of vehicle I'm allowed to drive stripped off.

I understand why they do this sort of thing, but it just seemed so arbitrary: the whole system only worked because they relied upon me to tell them about my diagnosis, and yet it felt like they had unilaterally decided to change my license, whatever the doctors said about my condition.

Fast forward three years, and it was predictably difficult and time-consuming to get my license renewed. I had to fill out all the same forms and make up another date for when I first saw the GP (don't they keep this stuff on file somewhere? Are they trying to catch me out or just like paperwork? Oh, don't answer that).  They actually asked me to send my existing driving license back before it expired, but upon reading the small-print, I saw that this wasn't actually necessary and hung onto it.  Good job too, because they took their own sweet time writing to my neurologist and issuing me with a new license.

Fast forward another three years to this Christmas and the impending expiry of my driving license.  Again, they sent me all the same forms, and again they singularly failed to get me a new license before the old one expired.  This time around, they actually wrote me a letter asking me to ring my neurologist and to ask him to write them a medical update because he wasn't answering their letters.  I ignored them on the grounds that I've never actually even met the consulting neurologist at QMC, and it also pissed me off that the DVLA didn't seem to be prepared to pull their fingers out and ring the hospital themselves.

Another month or so passed and I got a letter from the DVLA informing me that I would need to report to my GP for a driving medical in the next 14 days or my license renewal would be rejected.  I then began a two week dance with my GP's surgery, who told me initially that they didn't do driving medicals, then that they needed payment up front, even when the DVLA said they would reimburse the doctor directly.... you get the picture. It was frustrating.

In the end, I had the medical.  I turned up in my bike gear on the way to work, we chatted about my marathon training and he made sure I could read the letters on an eye chart.  It took about 10 minutes.

My license expired in early January.  Last week, some four months after I kicked the whole process off, I was issued with my new one.  The expiry on my new license has changed from three years to five years, and they've added a couple of the vehicle categories they stripped off back on too.  I'd love to think that this was because I passed the medical with such flying colours.  I suspect the truth is that the DVLA have realised that they can't cope with all the paperwork they're generating for themselves.

They wouldn't know I had MS at all if I hadn't told them.  Do you think they might consider trusting me to tell them if my situation changed again and I felt I wasn't able to drive? They trust people to get their eyes tested and to get a pair of glasses if they need them to drive, don't they?  Why is this so different?

Ugh.  Annoying.

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