Down at the Doctor’s

(Original edit of my article regarding my recent over-56 taxi medical).
Taxi licensing legislation in London is the strictest in the world. Private hire licensing seems to be about the slackest. Licensing is carried out by the same authority, but to wildly differing standards. Transport for London have tightened up a bit on PH, and refusing to re-licence Uber is part of a belated attempt to raise the standards to what the public should accept as standard.
Private hire drivers don’t have to jump through so many hoops, as in fairness they don’t operate in quite the same was as we do; but minimum standards of safety should apply to both trades. All drivers should be able to speak reasonable English: not to “A” Level standard, but they should be able to read road signs, and communicate with passengers, as a bare minimum. Everyone should have a reasonable idea of where they are going, independent of a satnav. All drivers should have comprehensive hire & reward insurance, and it should be switched on at all times. Is there such a thing as on/off insurance? I don’t think so. All drivers should have their criminal records examined to make sure they’re not wanted on three continents. TfL are concerned how criminal record checks are carried out. Is it true that Uber do the checking themselves, or use a friendly partner agency? Who knows, maybe it’s just rumours.
When I started out, criminal checks were carried out directly by our licensing authority – the Metropolitan Police. That seems reasonable. The system got complicated when they started to refer us to an outside agency. The procedure could be both laborious and lengthy under the CRB, then later the DBS. I find it absurd that we were forced into a situation where we had to pay money to a commercial organisation to see our own files.
In an official Taxi & Private Hire Notice, TfL outlined another interesting reason why they refused Uber a new licence. This concerns how medical certificates are obtained. I assume Uber drivers obtain their medical certificates the same way now as they did when Uber were first licensed in London. TfL have been accepting these medical certificates for over five years, so why the sudden surprise? The most startling revelation I’ve heard recently was that Uber drivers have been issued with medical certificates over the internet! I’m taking a particular interest here because I recently had a letter inviting me to contact my doctor for my over-55s medical. There didn’t seem an option to do it on-line.
Whilst I’m in good health at the time of writing I’m likely to be ill by the time I’ve joined the virtual queue to arrange an appointment on the phone, and then endured the physical ordeal of a trip down to the doctor’s. Medical centres are unhealthy places full of sick people coughing and spluttering up germs. Once in the consulting room I then have to convince the man in the white coat that I’m not as blind as a bat. Then there’s the fee. How much do Uber drivers pay a fee for their quickie medical? (more about that later…).
I last had a medical for my taxi licence five years’ ago; before that it was in 1988 after I applied to go on the Knowledge. My eyesight wasn’t as bad then, and I didn’t have cholesterol at Champions League standard. So how do they check your eyesight on-line? That’s not possible, surely? It’s not right if the rumours are true and Uber drivers can get a computer-generated medical certificate from an on-line Dr Feelgood. Then again, little surprises me the way Uber have put one over on our licensing body.
I’m not sure if standards have slipped for those of us who physically visit a qualified doctor for their medical. Maybe things are a bit more relaxed now, like the annual cab inspection. Maybe they now let us through with the human equivalent of dented bodywork or creaky brakes? Remember the old days when they’d and sit underneath us in a white coat to see if we leak fluids, ready to slap a stop note on our bums?
So how much do Uber drivers pay for their medicals? A quick Googler search threw up a Central London company who will complete a private hire – or taxi – medical for fifty quid, and on the day of booking. I know this takes weeks to arrange with my own GP, and I’ve been scared to ask how much it costs (someone at the Camley Street caff was quoted £250!). I shan’t give the company’s name in case it’s dodgy, but maybe we should be shopping around like our PH friends. Anyway, for this one I’m sticking with my local medical practice. If I’m still described as a taxi driver at the top of this article you’ll know I’ve passed the audition.

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