Welcome to The Sleep Apnoea Trust Association

Working to improve the lives of sleep apnoea patients,their partners and their families. Managed by volunteers, SATA is regarded as the leading UK charity working in the field of Sleep Apnoea

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Driving and Sleep Apnoea———> DVLA – ONLY COMMUNICATE BY LETTER

If you call, the DVLA about Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and make a mistake in what you say, you may well have your licence revoked.

If you email the DVLA about Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and make a mistake in what you send, you may well have your licence revoked.

If you report your Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) online to the DVLA, using their new medical condition reporting service and make a mistake in what you fill in, you may well have your licence revoked.

This advice is based on feedback from the SATA Helpline.

When you do contact the DVLA, after being diagnosed or suspected to be diagnosed and yet to be confirmed, with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS), where syndrome means the symptom of  excessive sleepiness, having, or likely to have, an adverse effect upon driving, do so only by letter and keep copies of all correspondence for future reference.

On the subject of diagnosis, please insist that your Sleep Clinic is ABSOLUTELY PRECISE in their diagnosis as to whether you have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) without the symptom of excessive sleepiness,  having, or likely to have, an adverse effect upon driving OR Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS), syndrome being the symptom of excessive sleepiness,  having, or likely to have, an adverse effect upon driving.

This information is crucial for  the decision that you must make whether or not you have to inform the DVLA.

If you have to use the current DVLA Forms SL1 or SL1V make sure it is completed with the assistance of your Sleep Clinic and/or SATA as they are both out of date!

Informing the DVLA is a legal requirement under Section 88 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act.

You must also inform your insurance company.

This information is for UK drivers only - regulations and requirements in other countries will be different. The information is given for general information purposes only. It is in no way intended to replace the professional medical care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a doctor. If you are worried about any aspect of your health, you should consult a doctor in person.

General Guidance to Drivers

The DVLA rule changes, which, due to their poor explanation for patients have created chaos, have now been simplified and are much easier to understand. The focus is upon “excessive sleepiness having or likely to have and adverse effect upon driving”.


If you are a driver with symptoms of OSA or a fleet operator unclear of the implications for drivers, please read the following explanation of the new DVLA guidance for Assessing Medical Fitness to Drive.

Following discussions with the DVLA relating to the requirements for driving with OSA, there have been some changes to the guidance provided for medical professionals when assessing whether a patient should drive and or whether they should contact the DVLA.

Information for drivers

These changes mean that if a driver is diagnosed with OSA, but does not have excessive sleepiness having, or likely to have, an adverse effect on driving, they may continue to drive as normal and do not need to notify the DVLA. If a driver has sleepiness that has an adverse effect on driving, and it is suspected that they might have OSA, they should stop driving but do not have to notify the DVLA until a diagnosis has been confirmed.

However, if OSA causing excessive sleepiness, that has an adverse effect on driving, is confirmed by a sleep clinic, the driver must stop driving and must notify the DVLA. If they have already been treated, and the symptoms have resolved, then the DVLA should not revoke their licence.

Sometimes the term OSA syndrome (OSAS) is used to mean OSA plus symptoms, usually sleepiness. The DVLA however are only concerned about symptoms that adversely affect driving (i.e. sleepiness).

You may see references to AHI (Apnoea/Hypopnea Index). This is a measurement that is referenced in the DVLA guidance. However the central focus for a medical professional in making an assessment should be based on excessive sleepiness and whether it has an adverse effect on driving.  If a driver falls into one of the categories above where the DVLA needs to be informed, we recommend the following steps:

  1. If they are a professional driver, who relies on their driving licence for their livelihood, we recommend that they mention this to their GP and ask that the GP contacts the local sleep centre to request fast-tracked treatment within four weeks. https://cks.nice.org.uk/obstructive-sleep-apnoea-syndrome
  2. Once OSA has been confirmed as the cause for sleepiness adversely affecting driving, regardless of whether the driver is a type 1 or a type 2 licence holder, we recommend that they write to the DVLA  (rather than calling the helpline number or using the online facility). The DVLA will send form SL1 or SL1V and this should be completed and returned. In the intervening time, the driver must stop driving and start the recommended treatment.
  3. Once this treatment is successfully controlling the symptoms, and the sleep unit has confirmed this, driving may start once again. Therefore on the form the DVLA sends (SL1 or SL1V), the driver can say the condition is controlled (tick the ‘yes’ box in 1.3) and there will be no need to withdraw the licence. As long as they comply with the treatment and the sleepiness resolves, the driver’s licence will not be affected.

HOWEVER, the DVLA has not updated its public areas, such as the Gov UK website, its Forms SL1/SL1V or its online medical reporting service so confusion for the public continues.

Only communicate with the DVLA by letter!

So, despite the changes, in terms of contact with the DVLA, under no circumstances at present, call them,  email them, or use on online medical reporting system,  as the result can be variable depending upon who you contact or you may make mistake in the information you provide.

This advice is based on feedback from the SATA Helpline which is still getting many calls from many confused drivers.

If you make any mistake you may have your licence revoked. 

Only communicate by letter, keep copies of all correspondence, as you may need them if  a problem arises.

Consult with your Sleep Clinic on ALL communications with the DVLA.

SATA is trying to update the Trust’s leaflet and patient information sheet “Driving and Sleep Apnoea – The Facts” to provide plain and easy to understand information on Driving and Sleep Apnoea. But, until the DVLA updates Gov UK,  its reporting forms, e.g. SL1/SL1V, and its online medical reporting service, we cannot proceed.

The legal position of drivers who are sleepy is clearly explained in the DVLA Leaflet “ Tiredness Can Kill” (INF 159 DVLA)and this can be downloaded from the following web link:

Tiredness Can Kill – Feb 2016

From Tiredness Can Kill

 What if I have a condition causing sleepiness/tiredness during the day?

  • You need to tell us if you hold a current driving licence of any type.
  • You can tell us by email or download a form from the ‘medical rules for drivers’ section of www.gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions
  • You can also tell us by post, fax, or phone NB SATA does not advise phoning the DVLA
  • A third party notification will only be accepted in writing and must be signed by the letter writer.
  • Please include your full name, address and date of birth.

We will then send you a questionnaire so you can give us details about your medical condition. The questionnaire also enables you to provide your consent for our Medical Advisers to request medical information from your doctors.

It may take some time to complete our enquiries, in the meantime we advise you to speak to your doctor or specialist about driving while we are completing our enquiries. A decision will be made about your driving licence as quickly as possible.”

Finally, if a doctor tells you must not drive as they have concerns about your ability to drive safely, the you must stop driving. If you continue to drive you are probably not insured as you will be breaking the law as defined in Section 88 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act.

Detailed Guidance to Drivers

At present we are unable to provide detailed guidance owing to the variability of interpretation of the new DVLA rules. Please consult you Sleep Clinic Consultant and seek their guidance on this matter.


Assessing fitness to drive-a guide for medical professionals Oct 2017           UP TO DATE

https://www.gov.uk/obstructive-sleep-apnoea-and-driving                           OUT OF DATE

https://www.gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions                                              OUT OF DATE

Driven to Despair – How Drivers are let down by the DVLA

British Thoracic Society

BTS Position Paper on Drivng and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome


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