Pennington vicar the Rev. Rachel Noël slams DVLA over medical licence renewal
A POPULAR local vicar has slammed the DVLA after she made 400 calls in a in a fruitless attempt to renew her medical driving licence.
The Rev. Rachel Noël, vicar of St Mark's Church in Pennington, must apply to the government organisation to renew her licence every two years after being diagnosed with autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder.
She said: "Not being able to drive affects my life and my job. I need to be able to get to the crematorium to take people's funerals.
"I'm very open about my mental health and so I'm confident speaking out to try to get help. But many people are embarrassed about needing to have a medical licence and will try to struggle through alone."
She had applied in January, three months before her licence expired on 20th April, but despite making countless calls and writing twice, the Rev. Noël heard nothing from the DVLA – until the A&T contacted it last week.
"After sending my application off and hearing nothing, I tried calling the medical renewal enquiries phone line but only ever got an automated message that told me they were very busy and to call back later," she said.
"The other day, I thought, 'This is crazy, there must be a way to get through' – my phone registered 400 attempts to make contact. I literally have no idea how to get through this!
"My application seems to have gone into a black hole and it has caused me a great deal of stress.
The Rev. Noël said that although the government "purports to support" those with mental health issues, "their systems and processes conspire to create stress rather than reduce it".
"The fact is, if you have mental health problems you already have a lot to contend with. Coming up against issues like this just make life even more difficult, so there are knock-on consequences," she said.
"I’m hoping that sharing this will raise awareness of some of the many practical challenges of living with a mental health condition, where the ‘systems’ don’t appear to be designed to make it possible for people to live well."
After being contacted by the A&T, the DVLA wrote to Rev. Noël informing her she can drive on an expired licence while her application is being dealt with, provided she has consent from her GP.
"Months after sending my application, I've had confirmation of receipt of it," she said. "They've now decided to contact my GP, a month after my licence has expired, and have finally let me know officially that under Section 88 I can drive in the meantime."
A DVLA spokesperson said the organisation was sorry for the delay in contacting the Rev. Noël.
"We have been quite busy and we apologise for that, but hopefully this will alleviate her stress," she said.