The OSA Partnership Group has called for fast-track medical treatment for vocational drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.
On October 27 forklift truck driver Neil Urwin was jailed for two years for causing death by dangerous driving, after a collision with cyclist Andy Charlton while driving his car in Northumberland in August 2014 - despite being told the previous day that he should not be driving because he was suspected of having sleep apnoea.
He chose to disregard the advice from his doctor, and as a result the dangers of driving with this condition have been once again brought to light.
The OSA Partnership Group, a collective set up to raise awareness of the condition, has been campaigning to expedite treatment of vocational drivers with OSAS so that the maximum wait is no longer than four weeks.
The condition is very treatable and the Group is aiming to make it easier for those who drive for a living, and who may have the condition, to come forward to receive treatment.
John Stradling, a member of the OSA Partnership Group and author of the campaign paper, said: “The Andy Charlton story is another tragic example of how OSAS can impair driving ability with sometimes dire consequences. It is so important that doctors and patients take this condition more seriously, understand its impact, and provide or accept appropriate advice where necessary.
“In my experience vocational drivers are often the safest on our roads but those with OSAS have no control over their sleepiness. We also know that these drivers are reluctant to come forward with symptoms of OSAS for fear of losing their licence, and therefore their livelihood. This is why our campaign is so important in reducing the fear of seeking help and encouraging drivers to get the treatment that will allow them to drive safely (and considerably benefit their quality of life). In doing so, we can eliminate many unnecessary road traffic accidents, and ultimately reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities such as Andy Charlton’s.”
Since the launch of the campaign, the Group has worked with the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and consequently NICE has updated its Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) to suggest that GPs who have patients presenting with symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS), where there is concern about job security, communicate with the local sleep centre to request diagnosis and treatment within four weeks.
Stradling continued: “The decision by NICE to add this wording to the CKS scenario management is a very welcome first step towards eliminating the fear that drivers have of coming forward for treatment for OSAS. We would encourage any drivers, who visit their doctor with symptoms, to highlight this guidance. In the meantime, we shall continue to work with healthcare organisations and fleet operators to work towards achieving our goal of a national standard to ensure that no vocational drivers has to wait more than four weeks for treatment.”
RAC Business corporate sales director Jenny Powley, added: “As a member of the OSA Partnership Group we have been firm supporters of the Four Week Wait campaign since its launch. The fact is the country and its economic development depends on the millions of commercial and fleet drivers that take to the roads every day, whether they are HGV drivers making deliveries or company car drivers attending sales meetings.
“As such it is vital that all drivers are aware of the symptoms of this potentially devastating condition and have access to medical support and treatment as quickly as possible.”
November is safety month for Fleet News, coinciding with Brake’s road safety week. Look out for our two themed issues: November 12 and November 26, plus content on our website.