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HGV drivers who suffer sleep issues serious enough to impair their ability to drive safely are required by law to cease driving until they can be examined and treated. For a driver suffering from sleep apnoea, this can be a real problem with the wait times associated with most NHS treatments. But a recent pilot scheme that proved fast tracking commercial drivers is possible should help a great deal. Implementing the service nationwide would mean that HGV drivers could be seen and treated for sleep apnoea within four weeks.

The pilot programme was instigated by the NHS and conducted by Newcastle Sleep Service at Freeman Hospital. The success of the pilot proved that the NHS can successfully implement a programme that would guarantee commercial drivers would be seen and treated for sleep apnoea in no more than four weeks. Between September 2014 in July 2015, more than 20 of the drivers referred to the pilot programme received treatment in a timely fashion.

The only question that remains is one of how the NHS will implement the programme nationwide. They are not known for streamlined service, so seeing how they go about this will be interesting. We join organisations like the Road Haulage Association in endorsing the plan to implement the programme throughout the UK. We believe it will be good for HGV drivers and their employers alike.

Addressing Driver-Specific Problems

From our point of view, the most important part of the NHS pilot scheme is its recognition that sleep apnoea is more common among commercial drivers than the general population. This is a driver-specific problem requiring a tailored solution that does not hinder the road haulage and transport sectors. The 4 Week Wait (4WW) programme, as it has been dubbed, is an excellent example of a driver-specific solution for a driver-specific problem.

The next step in the process is to make GPs aware of the 4WW initiative so that they can steer vocational drivers in that direction. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has already revised its Clinical Knowledge Summaries to include information about 4WW. The revisions include suggestions to GPs to consider fast-tracking vocational drivers suffering from sleep apnoea.

Helping the Logistics Sector

To say we are pleased with the results of the pilot would be an understatement. Anything that can help PCV and HGV drivers fulfil their legal requirements and stay working is good for the logistics industry. Our hope now is that the NHS manages to find a way to implement 4WW nationwide. It will be a tremendous help to a lot of people.

People considering careers as HGV drivers need to know that vocational driving is possible even if a person suffers from sleep apnoea. As long as the condition is being treated and is considered by doctors to be under control, there is no reason a driver could not safely work in the industry. That is good news for both current and future drivers alike.

Sources:

  1. Commercial Fleet – https://www.commercialfleet.org/news/latest-news/2016/01/27/sleep-apnoea-driver-campaign-hailed-as-success

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