Following recent revelations in the press regarding private hire driver medicals, Unite issued this news release.
Unite also met with Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross and on Wednesday 12 October attended TfL’s regular Licensing and Compliance meeting with the taxi trade.
In addition to those meetings Helen Chapman, General Manager TfL Taxi & Private Hire has written to Unite the union and others to confirm what action TfL is taking in relation to the newspaper story on bogus private hire medicals and topographical testing, saying:
I am writing to update you following the recent story in the Sun newspaper regarding alleged medical malpractice by three London-based GPs and concerns regarding topographical centres. I am aware that some of you have written to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor for Transport and the Commissioner to set out your concerns. I am responding directly on behalf of Transport for London (TfL).
As you will be aware, all taxi and private hire drivers are required to satisfy TfL when applying for a licence that they are medically fit to hold a licence (using the DVLA Group 2 medical standards as guidance). To ensure an applicant meets these standards they must undergo a medical assessment with a registered medical practitioner that has access to their medical history. Those practitioners are required to sign a medical declaration confirming they have had access to an applicant’s full medical records while examining the patient; no driver is licensed without our team being in receipt of that signed declaration. On receipt, we will assess the information provided and where necessary we liaise with our own medical experts through our Occupational Health team to determine an applicant’s fitness to be licensed.
As I am sure you will understand, we are very concerned to read of these allegations and are investigating them as a matter of urgency. To date, we have taken the following steps to address this:
· We have written to the General Medical Council (GMC), as the body responsible for overseeing the conduct of the medical professionals involved. Further to our letter we met with the GMC earlier this week to discuss the allegations and how we can work together to investigate them.
· Pending the outcome of the investigatory process, medical certificates from any of the doctors implicated in the article are no longer being accepted as proof of medical fitness submitted by new applicants. We will also review the files of all existing licensees and where medical fitness is found to have been certified by one of the doctors implicated in the article, appropriate regulatory action will be taken including consideration of licence suspension pending further proof of medical fitness
· We are also taking swift and immediate licensing action in relation to any operators implicated.
As you know, concern about fraudulent topographical testing has been an issue in the past, which is why we have suspended 19 topographical centres from operating in the last 12 months. Any topographical certificate we have received from any of the suspended topographical centres are referred to our internal topographical team, who arrange for the applicant to sit a re-test which we invigilate.
We have also undertaken a considerable amount of work in respect of topographical assessments and as a result, in late September 2016, we removed accreditation for all topographical centres. This is in anticipation of new topographical arrangements which are currently being implemented where TfL assessors will conduct all assessments to ensure all private hire driver applicants are tested consistently and are up to the standards that we, and the public, expect.
Furthermore, the assessments are being amended to include additional modules and will go-live shortly. Given the significant planned changes to the assessment, it will be a requirement for all existing drivers to complete a new assessment upon the first renewal of their licence.
Finally, many of you will be aware that we are already carrying out a broad review of how we process medicals and held two workshops with the taxi and private hire trades, in February and April this year. A follow up workshop is planned by the end of the year where we will explore the options discussed at the previous two workshops, including appointing specific medical practitioners to carry out all medical assessments to discuss this further. In light of the recent allegations we welcome your support in strengthening this process to ensure it is robust.
Unite the union will continue to communicate with TfL and monitor the situation regarding the implementation of new private hire regulations.
Unite Cab Section would also and for the sake of passenger safety urge Uber to drop its judicial review and allow TfL to progress new private hire regulations unhindered.