The DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency) have had my provisional driving licence for fifteen weeks and I don’t think I’m getting it back, because I have a medical condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia, which causes intense, chronic facial pain.
When I changed my surname by deed poll in October, rather than paying £80 for a new passport immediately, I decided the quickest way to get some ID in my new name was to just update my provisional driving licence. I have never driven and only use it for photo identification.
Driving has been one of those things I have always put off. When I was younger, I was paying for university (yes, your girl didn’t take out any loans!) and then I was busy working full time and saving for a house, then I was on strong medication, then I was working long hours in the city centre.. I always had one excuse or another! When it finally came to the time I wanted to learn to drive, could afford the lessons and had the time, I was 27! When I went blind in my right eye in March 2019, the intention to drive obviously took a back seat again.
I first realised that I might have a slight issue with renewing my driving licence in my new name, about two minutes into completing the paperwork. It asked me if I had any visual complaints or health problems to declare, with a firm warning of a £1000 fine for the omission of any information. Instantly, this went from a five minute form being posted off to a lengthy ordeal – although at the time, I didn’t imagine just how long they would be able to drag it out for.
I downloaded a form from the internet about visual problems (I have a rare retinal disease, which means I have blind spots in one eye) and a form for people with neurological problems (I have trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain illness) and filled them both out, tried to fit about ten sheets of paper into the tiniest envelope and posted it all off. Sorted? You would have thought so.
The first letter back from the DVLA informed me that I would need to attend a sight test at Specsavers to confirm that I can see to drive, which needed to be booked in within 4 weeks. This provided a lot of confusion for the staff ag the opticians – ‘you’re here for a DVLA vision test, but you can’t drive?‘ Luckily, I’m sure I passed that test with flying colours, because the visual fields test machine at any opticians is so basic that I don’t think they actually picks up my missing central vision! I was also not allowed to wear my glasses (which I read all the time), which was very bizarre, because I said I didn’t wear glasses for driving.. because I don’t drive! However, no more information is now needed about my vision and me being blind in one eye isn’t an issue for the DVLA.
The next letter I received was from the medical department saying they needed to contact my GP for more information about the medical conditions I had declared on the form, which I expected, because there are different types of trigeminal neuralgia, some more severe than others (although all equally horrible!) and everyone is affected in different ways. I think I would be fine to drive and I’m not currently on any medication that would affect driving, but the DVLA obviously need to confirm that with my doctor.
I imagined this would probably take a couple of weeks.
I am now on week fifteen of waiting for my ID back. I have had about fifteen phone calls with the medical department at the DVLA. Whenever they receive some information from my doctor, they come back to me and say that they need some more information before they can continue processing my application. They also say the doctors surgery are delaying this (even though I know the GP receptionists quite well and they have assured me that everything has been posted back to the DVLA very quickly after every request) and keep asking me to chase the doctors.
The most confusing thing is that whenever I ask what information they need from the GP, they categorically will not tell me what they require, despite asking me to chase the doctors surgery for them. I am literally ringing the GP receptionists every week saying, ‘the DVLA have asked for you to send them.. something else.. but they won’t tell me what. Do you happen to know?’ It is an incredibly frustrating and slow process.
I asked an advisor in the medical department how long it was going to take and he wouldn’t even give me a ballpark figure. I can only imagine this is going to take months and months.
They have requested additional information from the GP four times, that I am aware of, for a medical condition I have had for four and a half years, that has been consistent for about three of those years eyes that I have had no new issues with and no new investigations.
At the height of it’s fantastic customer service, the advisor at the DVLA said, ‘don’t call us anymore’!
I’m not sure if this is taking so long because TN is so rare that it has confused someone at the DVLA, or if this happens for all medical conditions, but I have pretty much accepted that I won’t get my driving licence back at this point. I now completely understand why people don’t declare medical information and risk the fine instead.
At least I’ve got a blog post out of this process!
UPDATE: 19 weeks after recieving my initial application, the DVLA asked me to confirm the name of my neurologist. In 19 weeks, after accessing my medical records, they still haven’t decided who my neurologist is.. Figures.
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