UK commercial vehicle drivers need more treatment, more quickly when it comes to a condition causing drowsiness at the wheel, says the Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group (OSA).
The lack of adequate awareness and treatment is putting lives at risk on the road, says the Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group (OSA), with members including RAC, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Freight Transport Association (FTA) and patient groups such as the British Lung Foundation (BLF) and Sleep Apnoea Trust (SATA).
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS) is common among middle-aged men, especially if they are overweight. Studies have shown that drivers with untreated OSAS are between three and nine times more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents.
The group wants Department of Health guidance to be sent to clinical commissioning groups, hospitals and general practitioners with the aim of enabling all vocational licence-holders to be back driving again within no more than four weeks following their first OSAS referral.
John Stradling, Emeritus Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, said, “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. Through the collaborative work our group has undertaken with the transport industry, we believe that by expediting treatment, we can reduce this fear and therefore encourage 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.”
The results of a recent ‘fast-track’ OSAS treatment trial by in Newcastle were published this week. Dr Sophie West, a GP in Newcastle, said, “The data demonstrate that a fast-track service is deliverable. It can diagnose OSAS in vocational drivers and successfully provide treatment within a short time-scale, many within four weeks of referral.
“It is vital that GPs are aware of the service and identify patients as vocational drivers at point of referral. We hope that this service will encourage vocational drivers with suspected OSAS to present for investigation and treatment, and potentially lead to safer roads.”
Between September 2014 and July 2015, 29 commercial drivers were referred and 22 were given access to treatment within four weeks.
“After being made aware of the aims of the Four Week Wait campaign, we developed a dedicated service for vocational drivers that aimed to diagnose OSA and successfully establish and review CPAP treatment within four weeks of GP referral,” explained Dr West.
“The data demonstrates that a fast track service is deliverable. It can diagnose OSA in vocational drivers and successfully provide treatment within a short time scale, many within four weeks of referral. It is vital that GPs are aware of the service and identify patients as vocational drivers at point of referral. We hope that this service will encourage vocational drivers with suspected OSA to present for investigation and treatment, and potentially lead to safer roads.”