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Hi Everyone, I am looking for someone who really knows how the DVLA  / driving works with regards to OSA. Apologies if this is a little long winded but i need to explain this as accurately as I can.

In the summer I had what I can only describe as a microsleep in the afternoon whilst driving home which momentarily caused me to drift into the oncoming lane - which thankfully was empty.

As a result I went to my GP who ordered blood tests and referred me to my local hospital sleep clinic to test for sleep Apnoea and sent me for a brain scan to rule out a TIA as i have an increased risk of blood clots due to Atrial Fibrilation

The brain scan was fine but the blood tests showed I was anaemic and my GP believed that was probably the cause of the drowsiness and this was succesfully treated with an iron supplement and Folic acid (I am staying on the Folic acid) 

The Sleep study took place a few weeks later and It was confirmed that I had OSA - however it didnt state to what level. I phoned and was told I would have to wait and see when I was referred to the specialist at Papworth Hospital.

I heard nothing from Papworth for 2 months, and in the meantime I had my annual health assessment at work - I mentioned the issues with Apnoea and anaemia. The Bupa Dr informed me that I could not drive until Papworth came back and confirmed I was being succesfully treated - regardless of not knowing what level of OSA I have. He said his ruling was legally binding and as my job involves a lot of driving I am currently sat at home on sick leave deemed unfit for work.

I was told I do not have to tell DVLA unless I get to 3 months from diagnosis and still havent received suitable treatment.

I started CPAP last Friday, I dont know what my AHI is without the CPAP but I am now getting 8hrs sleep (only waking once per night for a drink of water) and my AHI is ranging from 1.2 to 1.9, max pressure of 9.  ACI scores less than 1

I have not suffered daytime drowsiness since that 1 off microsleep in August and when doing the questionairre the only thing that gives me a slight chance of nodding off is sitting in a quite room after a substantial meal.

My diagnosis date from the home sleep study was 8th October which according to my occupational health dept gives me until 8th January to get successfully treated or i have to inform DVLA.

The bit that has confused me though is when I went to Papworth Hospital last week to pick up my CPAP machine.

They have said that it is a little known fact that only a consultant specialising in sleep apnoea can instruct me not to drive and that I should only stop driving if I have daytime sleepiness associated with moderate to severe OSA - as such It should only be at my first review of my CPAP use that the decision would be made regarding if I should drive or not.

So do I drive or not? I am going stir crazy at home and want to get back to work.

For those that have previously discussed the issue with DVLA would I be making a rod for my own back speaking to them now?

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Hi Lee

Papworth are correct that it is not the decision of the BUPA doctor to tell you whether or not to drive. The rules have changed as in my day when I got diagnosed many years ago, all of us had to stop driving if we'd been diagnosed with sleep apnoea. However, the DVLA clearly state that they only want it reporting to them if they have sleep apnoea "with excessive sleepiness affecting the ability to drive."

It depends on what score your Epworth Sleepiness Score was when you were referred to Papworth. If you were in the mild sleep apnoea criteria (which I appreciate you don't know, but could ring Papworth to ask) and any daytime sleepiness you had has gone away, then you can drive as normal and not report to the DVLA. If you were in the moderate-severe range of sleep apnoea AND had daytime sleepiness, then this will need reporting to the DVLA and Papworth will confirm at your review whether you can drive, depending on your new Epworth Score now you're on therapy. It's at this point you would contact the DVLA and name your consultant who will let DVLA they approve you to drive.

Check out the link on our website for as clear explanation as we could write with an issue that causes confusion, and you'll see a link on there to SATA as well https://www.hope2sleep.co.uk/dvla-rules-for-driving-with-sleep-apno...

Thank you Kath,

I think I will need to go back to Peterborough respiratory dept as they are the ones who ran my initial sleep study (quite a basic one with smart watch and pulse oximeter) and they never gave me any results - and never forwarded them to Papworth. However I only scored 3 or 4 or the Epworth scale prior to getting my CPAP and in the few days since I started on it I would say that is down to 1 or 2 at most

something that I think didnt help was me not fully understanding the definition of sleepy, When i first answered my GP asking the questions. I thought Sleepy was the same as tired but have since been told sleepy actually means you think you are about to fall asleep so I think that needs to be explained much better to people about to carry out the survey.

All I can say at the moment is that if I am scoring under 2 on AHI on CPAP i must have been scoring higher than that without it. I wonder if its worth getting another sleep study without CPAP to see what my baseline would be without treatment.

Kath Hope said:

Hi Lee

Papworth are correct that it is not the decision of the BUPA doctor to tell you whether or not to drive. The rules have changed as in my day when I got diagnosed many years ago, all of us had to stop driving if we'd been diagnosed with sleep apnoea. However, the DVLA clearly state that they only want it reporting to them if they have sleep apnoea "with excessive sleepiness affecting the ability to drive."

It depends on what score your Epworth Sleepiness Score was when you were referred to Papworth. If you were in the mild sleep apnoea criteria (which I appreciate you don't know, but could ring Papworth to ask) and any daytime sleepiness you had has gone away, then you can drive as normal and not report to the DVLA. If you were in the moderate-severe range of sleep apnoea AND had daytime sleepiness, then this will need reporting to the DVLA and Papworth will confirm at your review whether you can drive, depending on your new Epworth Score now you're on therapy. It's at this point you would contact the DVLA and name your consultant who will let DVLA they approve you to drive.

Check out the link on our website for as clear explanation as we could write with an issue that causes confusion, and you'll see a link on there to SATA as well https://www.hope2sleep.co.uk/dvla-rules-for-driving-with-sleep-apno...

Agree with you Lee and we always point out to people that it's 'sleepiness' the Epworth scores on. Glad you didn't have an accident with the micro sleep, and of course this could certainly be due to the untreated sleep apnoea, but micro sleeps can happen to people without sleep disorders too if they short-change themselves on sleep for a while. I'd definitely ring the hospital who did your study to at least find out what your AHI was on diagnosis, but if your Epworth score was only 3-4 untreated before diagnosis then you don't have to report it to the DVLA anyway and can legally drive.

Hi Kath,

I have managed to track down my scored from my initial sleep survey at Peterborough

my AHI was 15.4 and they have recorded that as moderate sleep Apnoea (if only they had rounded it down!)

I had a 4% dip rate whatever that means and my nightime spo2 level dropped to 93%

the important bit... My Epworth score. This was recorded at diagnosis as 1 out of 24

so based on that I think the Bupa Dr is talking bunkum and I should be allowed to drive as I have a low daytime sleepyness score

Great Lee as at least you know and it's good your CPAP therapy is going well :) Even if rounded down it's still moderate OSA lol, and this was just based on one night so other nights it could have been higher or lower.

The important thing is that you didn't have daytime sleepiness before or after diagnosis as not everyone does. Therefore, the DVLA rules do not require you to report to them as every criteria they give starts with 'Excessive daytime sleepiness with........" The conclusion here is that you didn't need this explaining as if you were a 5 year old - it was the confusion the BUPA Dr caused, and it wasn't his place to say that either!!!

lee smeaton said:

Hi Kath,

I have managed to track down my scored from my initial sleep survey at Peterborough

my AHI was 15.4 and they have recorded that as moderate sleep Apnoea (if only they had rounded it down!)

I had a 4% dip rate whatever that means and my nightime spo2 level dropped to 93%

the important bit... My Epworth score. This was recorded at diagnosis as 1 out of 24

so based on that I think the Bupa Dr is talking bunkum and I should be allowed to drive as I have a low daytime sleepyness score

Just spoken to Papworth, they are sending me a letter to give to Bupa to say there is no restriction on my driving

Great to hear Lee - good on them and hope they also send the pdf from the DVLA to educate the doctor!!
lee smeaton said:

Just spoken to Papworth, they are sending me a letter to give to Bupa to say there is no restriction on my driving

I got a provisional license just for ID purposes, at height of covid pandemic.
I got a searching look from the doc as to whether I was really fit to drive or not, but it wasn't for driving anyway, I don't drive.
Only problem - it took 8 months to come though. Applied in January, received in August.

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