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Driving and diabetes on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

On Wednesday 5 October, Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. During his speech he made reference to an EU directive concerning driving and diabetes. On BBC Radio 4's Today programme the following morning, Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK's Director of Care and Advocacy, was interviewed and gave his thoughts on Cameron's comments.

Edited transcript

This is what David Cameron said yesterday in his keynote speech: "Almost every day, I see pointless new regulation coming our way. A couple of weeks ago I was up in the flat, going through some work before the start of the day and I saw this EU directive. Do you know what it was about? Whether people with diabetes should be allowed to drive. What’s that got to do with the single market? Do you suppose anyone in China is thinking: I know how we’ll grow our economy – let’s get those diabetics off our roads. Europe has to wake up."

What was he talking about?

An EU directive was brought out about 18 months ago, which has brought about some changes to whether people with diabetes, who treat their diabetes with insulin, are allowed to drive or not. We believe that though there are some good things about the EU regulation, allowing people to drive large goods vehicles for the first time in 20 years, it has also tightened up restrictions which will actually stop some people from holding driving licenses who we believe are quite safe to drive.

One would assume then, if you read David Cameron’s words, that the Government is on your side?

We would have liked to think so, but when we’ve approached the Department of Transport and spoken to the minister, Mike Penning, we’ve been told very firmly that "Our hands are tied, this is a European decision, there’s nothing we can do."

So you’ve been to them and raised this issue, and said there are perfectly good reasons why these people should be allowed to drive, this EU directive has got it wrong, and they’ve done nothing.

Nothing’s happened at all so far. We’re trying to see what’s happening in the rest of Europe because the UK has traditionally always adopted EU regulations with probably the more strict interpretation than other European states have done and we’re seeing whether that’s the case this time. We believe that the regulations that were in place before this came in were absolutely adequate and we should really be pushing back against this directive.

So following what the Prime Minister said yesterday are you going to renew your efforts to get the Government to act on your behalf?

We will certainly be writing to David Cameron asking him to speak to his Secretary of Transport... to see whether the rules can be interpreted differently in the UK, and if not what is he going to do about trying to lobby this at a European level.

You can listen to the full interview on the BBC website.

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