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23 May 2024 | Comment | Article by Siobhan Thomas

The importance of reporting medical conditions to the DVLA

Safe driving requires, among other things, attention and concentration, good reaction time, muscle power and co-ordination and good eyesight.

The DVLA must be informed if you have a driving licence and subsequently develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability, or if a condition or disability has worsened since the licence was obtained.

What circumstances require you to notify DVLA?

There are a wide range of medical conditions, disabilities and treatment which can affect a person’s ability to safely control a vehicle. Therefore, all drivers are legally obliged to tell the DVLA about any medical condition which may affect their ability to drive.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there are over 180 medical conditions which need to be reported to the DVLA. A full list of the medical conditions and disabilities that must be declared can be found on the government website.

Drivers must declare certain conditions and confirm that they meet the eyesight standards for driving, which is a legal duty. Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect a person’s ability to drive safely. They can include:

  • Epilepsy including fits or blackouts
  • Strokes
  • Any brain surgery, severe head injuries or brain tumours
  • Other neurological conditions such as repeated attacks of sudden disabling giddiness
  • Narcolepsy or sleep apnoea syndrome
  • Physical disabilities such as limb differences, where driving is restricted to certain cars, or those with adapted controls
  • Visual impairments, for example only partial sight

Reporting medical conditions to the DVLA is a straightforward process, and can be done online.

It is the responsibility of the individual to notify the DVLA of medical conditions.

What are the consequences of failing to inform the DVLA (and insurers) of medical conditions?

A driver can be fined up to £1,000 if they fail to tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects their driving. They may also be prosecuted if they are involved in a road traffic collision as a result.

It is also important to bear in mind that certain medical conditions can affect car insurance. Therefore, a policyholder has a duty to disclose to their insurance company any medical conditions which could affect their driving.

A claim on your car insurance could be invalidated if you have failed to disclose a notifiable medical condition, or for example if your eyesight doesn’t meet the legal minimum requirement.

In more serious cases, continuing to drive with poor eyesight or an undisclosed medical condition could result in causing death or life changing injuries.

Who decides if you are fit to drive?

The DVLA (in England, Scotland and Wales) and DVA (in Northern Ireland) are legally responsible for considering whether someone is medically unfit to drive.

In law, it is the duty of the licence holder or applicant to notify DVLA of any medical condition that may affect safe driving. However, circumstances may arise in which a person cannot or will not notify the DVLA. It may therefore be necessary for a doctor, optometrist, or other healthcare professional to consider notifying DVLA under such circumstances if there is concern for road safety, for both the individual and the wider public.

What can GPs and other medical professionals do if they have concerns about a person’s ability to drive safely?

Whilst doctors and other medical professionals are not legally obliged to inform DVLA, they are responsible for considering whether a patient’s condition or treatment may affect their ability to drive safely. This means reporting any concerns to DVLA if a person holding a driving licence has a medical condition or is undergoing treatment that may affect their driving ability, both now and in the future.

If a doctor has declared that you are medically unfit to drive, it is the law that you hand your licence back to the DVLA. GPs also have a duty of protection to inform authorities if they have declared a patient unfit and they continue to drive. Contrary to what some people may believe, GPs do not need a patient’s consent to do this. Whilst doctors do guarantee confidentiality between them and a patient, they are not risking their position if they report a patient to the DVLA who is continuing to drive, despite being warned. Medical professionals have a wider duty to protect and promote public safety. Confidentiality is therefore not absolute, and reporting a dangerous driver is far more important.

Doctors should therefore alert patients to conditions and treatments that might affect their ability to drive and remind them of their duty to tell the appropriate agency. Doctors may, however, need to consider whether to disclose relevant information to the DVLA or DVA without consent if a patient is unfit but continues to drive, if it is in the public interest to do so.

The DVLA has recently provided updated guidance for medical professionals on assessing fitness to drive: Assessing fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals.

The General Medical Council (GMC) also provides guidance to medical practitioners regarding patients’ fitness to drive and reporting concerns to the DVLA or DVA: Patients’ fitness to drive and reporting concerns to the DVLA or DVA – professional standards.

In its guidance: Confidentiality: good practice in handing patient information, GMC says:

  • If it is not practicable or appropriate to seek consent, disclosing personal information may be justified in the public interest if failure to do so may expose others to a risk of death or serious harm.
  • If you consider that failure to disclose the information would leave individuals or society exposed to a risk so serious that it outweighs the patient’s and the public interest in maintaining confidentiality, you should disclose relevant information promptly to an appropriate person or authority.
  • If you become aware that the patient is continuing to drive when they may not be fit to do so, you should make every reasonable effort to persuade them to stop.
  • If you do not manage to persuade the patient to stop driving, or you discover that they are continuing to drive against your advice, you should consider whether the patient’s refusal to stop driving leaves others exposed to a risk of death or serious harm. If you believe that it does, you should contact the DVLA or DVA promptly and disclose any relevant medical information, in confidence, to the medical adviser.

Driving and eyesight

The current legal requirement for eyesight is that you must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres (67 feet) in order to drive. This is tested by the examiner on the day a driver sits their driving test, but otherwise the safety of drivers with reduced vision is reliant on the driver, or a medical professional such as an optician, reporting any medical concerns.

Medical assessment

Once a person has informed the DVLA of a medical condition or disability, the medical advisers will decide whether they satisfy the medical standards of fitness to drive. A medical questionnaire must be completed to notify the DVLA as to the specific details about the medical condition or disability. The questionnaire also enables the applicant to provide their consent for the DVLA medical adviser to request medical information from the person’s doctor if this is needed.

Wherever possible a decision will be made based on the information provided in the medical questionnaire. However, if further information is required, the medical adviser may:

  • contact the person’s doctor and/or consultant
  • arrange for them to be examined by a locally appointed medical officer, local consultant or specialist
  • request that they undergo a driving assessment, eyesight or driving test

In some circumstances DVLA will require independent review by a DVLA-appointed doctor or optician/optometrist. Depending on individual circumstances, a licence applicant may also require a driving assessment and/or appraisal.

There are different rules for when a person can drive again, dependant upon whether the licence was voluntarily surrendered, or if it was revoked or suspended for medical reasons. If someone has their driving licence revoked or suspended for medical reasons, then they can reapply once a doctor has confirmed that they meet the medical standards for driving.


For many of us, driving gives us independence and freedom, so the thought of having to give it up can be very difficult. It is understandable that drivers may be reluctant to declare a health issue which may result in them having to surrender their licence and stop them from driving. However, with the rising number of fatal and serious collisions on our roads, should you or someone you know have a medical condition which could affect their driving ability, it is important to inform the DVLA promptly; hiding it isn’t worth the risk.

Our Serious Injury team specialises in supporting families after catastrophic injuries and fatal incidents such as road traffic collisions. We offer legal advice to those suffering a life changing injury or families suffering the loss of a loved one.

Author bio

Siobhan Thomas


Siobhan Thomas represents individuals who have suffered a serious injury through no fault of their own. Many of her clients have experienced traumatic events and life changing injuries, that have seriously affected not only their health and wellbeing, but that of their loved ones too.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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