Fast track remedy for sleep deprived drivers
By: Dave Robbins
02 February 2016
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS) is a common medical condition amongst middle-aged men – particularly if they’re overweight.
The age profile alone means that goods vehicles drivers are amongst those at a higher risk of suffering from this condition.
OSAS affects regular breathing when sufferers are asleep. It means that they rarely benefit from a good night of essential restorative, healthy sleep. For sufferers, alongside a lack of energy and general tiredness, comes an entirely natural tendency to want to nod off during the day. When your job means that you are in charge of a large vehicle, that’s dangerous. Studies show that drivers suffering from OSAS are between three and nine times more likely to be involved in an accident.
That’s why vocational drivers diagnosed as suffering from OSAS are no longer allowed to drive. And therein lies a problem – commercial drivers who think that they may have the condition are reluctant to report it because they fear the loss of their livelihood. In fact, most cases are treatable, as long as the right medical advice is in place.
And now there’s even better news. A fast track medical trial held in Newcastle has shown that goods vehicle drivers suffering from OSAS can actually be diagnosed, treated and back behind the wheel within just four weeks of referral.
The Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group (OSA), members of which include the FTA, RAC and DVLA want this fast track system made available to all goods vehicle drivers across the UK. They’d like Department of Health guidance sent to clinical commissioning groups, hospitals and general practitioners with the aim of helping all vocational licence holders to be back driving again within no more than four weeks.
John Stradling, Emeritus Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, has been part of the collaborative project with OSA. “Through the work our group has undertaken with the transport industry, we believe that by expediting treatment we can reduce the fear of loss of livelihood and encourage drivers to get the treatment they need to drive safely.”
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