An error on a DVLA form leads to a claim – how did we assist Dr G with this? By Dr Sophie Haroon, Medicolegal Consultant, Medical Protection.
Mr Y was a 57-year-old bus driver who had been in the job nearly 30 years. He enjoyed driving, especially since his wife had died as it gave him purpose and meaning to get up in the mornings.
Over time life had crept up on him. He had well-controlled mild hypertension, was a bit overweight, and was on tablets for type 2 diabetes. He was compliant with all his diabetes checks at his GP surgery and had undergone a diabetes education programme at the time of diagnosis. So far there had not been any issue that had impacted on his renewal of his Group 2 driving licence.
One day Dr G was given a letter by her practice manager. It was from the DVLA asking for a M2V form to be completed on Mr Y. This form asked various questions about his diabetes. Dr G did not know Mr Y but the practice manager insisted it would be a “quick job…being a short form…mainly tick boxes”. As the practice had had the form for a couple of weeks, Dr G knew she needed to complete it post-haste. At the end of a long and complicated clinic, a rather distracted, tired Dr G finally got round to phoning Mr Y to complete the form. It was then sent off some days later.
After a few weeks Mr Y received a letter from the DVLA revoking his licence. They stated they had received information that indicated he was not able to demonstrate an understanding of the risks of hypoglycaemia. Because of this, they had taken the immediate action regarding his licence. Mr Y had to inform his employer he could not come into work.
Mr Y was very upset and wrote a letter of complaint to the practice. He pointed out that when Dr G had questioned him, he had described clear awareness and understanding of hypoglycaemia and its management. Dr G took the time to review her completed form and could see her tick was really in the wrong box. She then wrote a letter to the DVLA advising of her error and stating Mr Y was able to demonstrate adequate hypoglycaemia awareness. There was some administrative delay in the practice sending this letter.
Further weeks passed and Mr Y had not heard anything from the DVLA. He approached the practice again, asking them to expedite the DVLA’s review of his licence. He was frustrated and concerned about the financial impact especially as he had, by now, had to take out a loan to cover bills. Dr G wrote a further letter to the DVLA and followed it up with a phone call.
Some five months after Mr Y’s licence had been revoked, the DVLA reinstated it and he was able to return to work.
Mr Y then wrote another letter to the practice requesting compensation. He stated that because of the error in completing the form his licence had been unnecessarily revoked leading to loss of income for five months. He had also incurred the costs of a loan and, being unable to drive his car, had had to resort to alternative forms of transport, which had incurred unnecessary costs for him. Finally, the loss of his regular routine provided by his job had caused some distress and low mood, which he requested recompense for.
Dr G approached Medical Protection as she had Claims Protection cover at the time of the incident. On review of the facts, it was quickly determined that this was a case that was not defensible as the wrong box had been inadvertently ticked on the DVLA form. It was a simple human error but unfortunately an error nonetheless. Whilst Dr G had made several attempts to correct the information with the DVLA, there had also been administrative delays at the practice, which had hampered rectification.
Mr Y was requested to provide proof of his monthly earnings, the loan arrangements and interest, and receipts for the additional transport he had used during the period his licence had been revoked. A small uplift was added for the distress and inconvenience incurred. The claim was settled for a small sum.
Without a doubt, medical practice is in the most difficult of times with exponential demands and pressure. In the midst of juggling multiple commitments, it is easy to make even a simple mistake that, in hindsight, you would not normally do.
The acronym ‘HALT’ comes to mind here. Mistakes are more likely when one is: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. If there is one bit personal development you do this year, mastering awareness and management of these states can pay dividends in your professional and personal lives.
Medical Protection sees DVLA claims where the wrong box was ticked, wrong numbers were entered (eg BP, visual assessments), or there were delays in sending off information timeously. Try to resist pressure from others who may think a task can be completed quickly, and have an admin system that returns forms promptly. Indeed, the GMC advises that if you agree to prepare a report or complete or sign a document to assist the DVLA/DVA’s assessment of a patient’s fitness to drive, you should do so without unreasonable delay. Measures can be simple but when not in place can lead to big consequences for the patient like loss of income and additional costs, and for the clinician like more work through writing corrective letters, follow-up phone calls and dealing with a patient’s complaint or claim.
It is also important to remember that completing a DVLA form attracts a fee and is not covered under the Clincial Negligence Scheme for General Practice in England or General Medical Practice Indemnity in Wales. This means in the event of a claim arising from this work, the state will not assist. At Medical Protection, we offer Claims Protection, which gives you the right to request indemnity and assistance with clinical negligence claims arising from activities which are out of scope of the state indemnity schemes for general practice.
Without your own Claims Protection cover for completing DVLA forms, responsibility for managing claims from this work, including any settlement, will fall to yourself. If there is one administrative task you do this year, ensure you have the appropriate level of membership for your practice. If in doubt, ring the Medical Protection Membership line on 0800 561 9000. It would be five to ten minutes well spent.