Introduction Driver’s licence holders have a legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) if diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS). This requirement may cause considerable anxiety but few data are available to advise patients on the likely outcomes following such notification.
Methods Patients diagnosed with OSAS and offered CPAP between 1st October 2009 and 31st March 2010 were surveyed anonymously and asked to report on: a) symptoms of sleepiness whilst driving before and after treatment; b) if they recalled being given advice about contacting the DVLA by healthcare professionals; c) whether they contacted the DVLA; d) the response of the DVLA if notified. The survey was performed between 1st June and 31st August 2010. To provide a description of the population surveyed 67 (10%) case notes were chosen at random from the population surveyed, reviewed and descriptive data extracted.
Results Six hundred and seventy three patients were surveyed and 297 (44%) responded. 92% were category B licence holders. The data outlining the surveyed population are in Table 1.
Sixty percent and 16% respectively reported no and moderate to severe sleepiness whilst driving, prior to treatment. Two hundred and six patients (69%) recalled being given advice about driving by a health care professional and of those 161 patients (78%) had informed the DVLA of their diagnosis. In total 197 patients (66%) had informed the DVLA of their OSAS. The DVLA asked 8% (16/197) to stop driving temporarily of which 80/197 contacted the DVLA prior to starting treatment. Five patients (2.5%) were deemed not fit to drive by the DVLA in the long term. The mean (SD) time for the DVLA to reach a decision was 29 (33) days.
Conclusion In summary, recognising its limits, in particular the risk of responder bias, this survey shows most OSAS patients offered CPAP do not experience problems with driving licence retention if they contact the DVLA. The DVLA infrequently ask patients to stop driving. Approximately one third of patients had not informed the DVLA of their OSAS during the timeframe of this survey.
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