After my cataract operation last year I bade farewell to my driving licence with a great sigh of regret. Yes, theoretically the licence was on ice for twelve months, but it would take a miracle for my sight to improve and I resigned myself to an unmotorised future. Then in January this year the ophthalmologist informed me that with a simple YAG laser capsulotomy to remove the post-cataract opacity there was a slim chance of improving my sight. I didn’t dare hope too much, but after the treatment, eye tests showed that with distance glasses my visual acuity did indeed just reach the minimum required. The miracle had happened! Hallelujah!
Straight away I wrote off to the appropriate authorities in Switzerland to ask what I needed to do.
Very simple, they said. Send in your application for the return of your licence with the results of the eye tests signed by your Swiss GP.
My Swiss GP was willing to comply, but whereas in Switzerland, I could just phone the ophthalmologist and ask him to send the results to the GP, here in the UK things work differently. My ophthalmologist is a consultant in several hospitals, comes to ours once a week, and is inaccessible to mere mortals. Can’t the Ophthalmology Department deal with it? I phoned the hospital, was passed from A to B to X, Y and Z, and apparently only the Big Man is allowed to sign any forms.
However, my local optician is a darling – quite apart from his Bollywood looks – and was very happy to certify the results of the tests he had performed showing that with my new glasses, my distance vision is adequate. The form went off to my GP at the end of January and I settled down hopefully to wait for my licence to reappear. Two weeks later, my GP e-mailed me asking where the results were: lost in the post, alas! I had had the sense to make photocopies, but I thought to gain time it would be better to scan and send them by e-mail and the optician was happy to do this for me.
Again I waited, and then came another e-mail from the GP saying he hadn’t received anything. I made photocopies of my photocopies – just in case – and posted them off, with a letter to the Traffic authorities for the GP to enclose with the official form. Three days later, he e-mailed me to say he had received my letter and forwarded everything to the Traffic Office. By now it was past the middle of February, and getting very close to the twelve-month deadline, but I was confident that in spite of the gremlins, I was just in time.
At the end of February, the Traffic office wrote to say that they had received my application, but they needed more information from the ophthalmologist to be supplied within 30 days. This letter was sent to my home address in Switzerland, redirected to my daughter who is dealing with all my mail in my absence, and she forwarded it to me here in England. All this took over a week and it arrived here on Friday. That means, allowing for postal delays, instead of 30 days I have just about two weeks.
I trotted off to the optician again right away, but this time he couldn’t help as some of the tests had to be performed by an ophthalmologist. Now I know that these tests have already been done and the results are in my records at the hospital so I rang the Ophthalmology Department again. The person answering the phone told me that I would have to send a request in writing to the consultant for the results to be made available to me, but I might also need an appointment to have my eyes tested again with my new glasses just to make sure that my visual acuity is what the optician says it is. The waiting list for appointments is currently 3 to 4 weeks.
I don’t need to see the consultant. I have the optician’s results. Surely it can’t be too difficult to find somebody in the hospital who can tick a few boxes based on the existing records and sign the form, within the next two weeks? All the same, I have written to the consultant and translated the form, but as I don’t have a printer here I’ve had to wait until Monday to get my letter printed out by my pal at the computer shop. I’ve also added a photocopy of the optician’s signed statement of my results, and enclosed a stamped addressed envelope. With first class post and a bit of luck, it will arrive tomorrow. The Big Man visits our hospital on Wednesdays.
Will I get the form back within two weeks? Will I have to wait for an appointment? Who can say! It may be urgent but it isn’t an emergency. A friend who has followed this saga suggests that I should go as a private patient. Just to get someone to tick four or five boxes on a simple form? I think I need to ask for more time, but how can I explain to the über-efficient Swiss the complexities of the British health system administration? Fingers crossed!