Lorry drivers using private companies to sign them off as fit to get behind the wheel could have a "grave impact on road safety", the British Medical Association has warned.
The BMA has written to the Department for Transport to say that drivers were increasingly using private providers to sign off “fit to drive” medicals because of a massive backlog with GPs.
GPs normally carry out the checks, which are compulsory for new HGV licence applicants and must be renewed every five years by lorry drivers over the age of 45.
Motorists driving ordinary vehicles have a responsibility to tell the DVLA of any condition which may affect their driving but do not have to have a medical. The checks were designated as less of a priority for GPs during the pandemic.
The BMA said that rules must be tightened so that only a driver's own GP can sign off the checks because they have access to an applicant's full medical records.
Drivers may be understating their medical conditions and being allowed to drive when they shouldn't be, the BMA said.
Dr Peter Holden, BMA Professional Fees Committee chair, said: “Across the country, thousands of drivers require medical ‘fit to drive’ sign off in order to obtain or renew their drivers’ licence.
“We know that some of these drivers, aware of the current DVLA backlog, are bypassing the queue at their own GP practice and going to third-party registered medical practitioners.
"The issue here is that only an individual's GP practices has access to a patient's full medical record, so only they know whether or not that person is fit to drive.
"By seeking 'sign-off' from an independent practitioner, who only has the patient's word to go by, there's a risk that medical conditions may be, either intentionally or unintendedly, understated and this has already had a grave impact on road safety."
A spokesperson for the Drivers and Vehicle Licence Authority (DVLA) welcomed the BMA's intervention.
"By law, all drivers must meet medical standards for fitness at all times, and there are additional checks for bus and lorry drivers," the DVLA said.
"We have plans in place to reduce the current backlog of medical applications by bringing in additional staff and evening shifts, and are also working on additional measures to increase our surge capacity and help process applications faster."