Inquiry into DVLA finds significant delays for driving licence applicants

Published: April 04 2023
Last updated: May 15 2023

The Public Accounts Committee, selected by the House of Commons, has completed an inquiry into the driving licence backlogs at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

The Committee received submissions from people who had lost their jobs or income and had been unable to start or return to work as a result of the delays in their DVLA applications.

Among the 40 testimonies, three quarters were from people with medical conditions requiring DVLA to decide on their fitness to drive. Some of them experienced isolation as a consequence, reporting concerning impacts on their mental health.

To make the situation worse, the Covid-19 pandemic further increased the backlogs, as both the DVLA and the Department of Transport were not capable of keeping essential driving licence services running, especially for those people who most need it.

The inquiry also acknowledges that the DVLA’s operations are antiquated, the Agency lacks a “comprehensive strategy for modernisation”, and it is most likely unable to face another crisis.

Since April 2020, around 3 million driving licence applicants have experienced delays.

During the pandemic, the DVLA’s communication was ineffective, leaving many customers unaware of any progress on their application. DVLA’s call centre was very difficult to contact, and those who were able to speak to the Agency found its response unhelpful, causing additional stress and frustration.

The inquiry reports that the DVLA’s system to process applications from people with medical conditions is slow and inefficient, and urgently needs major improvement.

Indeed, those with medical conditions have been the most affected by the delays, as it has emerged that waiting times for applications that involve a medical decision are much longer than for other applications, with many decisions taking more than a year.

DVLA’s target for processing time is set at 90 days; however, the Committee believes 90 days is too long. In the press release for the publication of the Inquiry, the Committee said they were concerned that the DVLA’s poor service discriminates against its more vulnerable customers.

For medical decisions, the DVLA often requires information from GPs and other medical professionals, which is requested and submitted using paper documentation. For this reason, the Committee believe that the Department of Transport should introduce modern, digital communications to speed up the process, although it is still unclear how this would work.

Epilepsy Action hears from many people with epilepsy who have experienced delays when applying for a driving licence. Being able to drive can be essential for an individual’s independence, but many people with epilepsy who cannot drive due to their condition, rely on public transport.

However, to apply for a bus pass for disabled people, many local councils require people to firstly apply for a driving licence. Once their application is rejected by the DVLA, they are then able to apply for a discounted bus pass. This causes massive delays for many people, as well as increasing the workload of the DVLA.

For this reason, Epilepsy Action is working to raise this issue with the DVLA and the Department of Transport, campaigning in favour of an easier process that guarantees discounted bus fares for those who need it.

  • For more updates on the DVLA’s delays for people with epilepsy, follow Epilepsy Action’s Twitter account.
  • For more information about driving and epilepsy, please view our webpage or contact the Helpline.

We would also like to hear from you if you have had any problems with the DVLA’s application process. Please contact to share your experience.