A campaign has been launched that aims to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on UK roads by calling for fast-tracked medical treatment for vocational drivers who have the condition obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS).
The campaign has been launched by the OSA Partnership Group, a collective set up to raise awareness of the condition. It has called on the Department of Health to issue guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), hospitals and GPs to expedite treatment of vocational drivers with OSAS to enable driving again within a maximum of four weeks following first referral.
OSAS is particularly common amongst middle-aged men, especially those who are overweight. Studies have shown that when a driver with untreated OSAS gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, they are between three and nine times more likely to have an accident and that the incident is likely to be of increased severity.
Professor John Stradling, a member of the Group and author of the campaign paper, said: “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. 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.”
Bill Johnston, chairman of Sleep Apnoea Trust (SATA), a member of the Group said: “We believe that this campaign will provide drivers and their employers with a clear indication of how long a driver can expect to be off the road and therefore enable contingency plans to be put in place, The alternative, particularly in light of the growing prevalence of sleep apnoea, is to risk an increase in road traffic accidents and more deaths on our roads.”