& 352 Medical Tests
Taxi medicals are compulsory.
Taxi drivers need to complete a medical form (TLM1) when first applying. They also need one when they are renewing their taxi licence if they are 45 years of age or over. It becomes an annual event when over 65. They also need to complete a medical if they become aware of a new medical issue.
When DVA receive a Medical Form (TLM1) with a medical issue reported it goes to OHS (Occupational Health). OHS can pass or fail the applicant, ask for more information from the doctor or consultant or send the applicant for further tests which usually is at 352 Medical on the Lisburn Road.
Below is a very helpful article from Sean who has been through the process.
Drivers who have completed a medical with their own GP for their PSV driving test are sometimes referred for a more specific medical examination by a DVA appointed specialist, this medical is usually carried out at a private hospital in Belfast. It’s usually conducted by 352 Medical at the Kingsbridge private hospital on Lisburn Road in Belfast. Drivers who have had a serious medical condition in the past, or a history of heart or lung problems, suffer from high or low blood pressure, receiving treatment for sleep apnoea or diabetes or perhaps appear to be a bit overweight or generally unfit, or simply because of their age (over 60) may be more likely to be selected for this medical examination. Not everyone is referred for this further medical, it’s paid for by DVA and it’s certain to be quite expensive.
Getting there is at your own expense. When you are notified that you have been referred for a 352 medical, they might phone you to arrange an appointment. Assuming you’ll be travelling from the North-West, always opt for an afternoon appointment - early morning travel to Belfast is an absolute nightmare and it’s so much easier to travel around mid-day. It is advisable not to drive there yourself, as it can be a problem finding a parking place nearby and driving in a busy city that you’re not used to will certainly increase your blood pressure on the day. It’s convenient to take the 212 bus from Derry which will leave you at Europa bus centre - they leave Foyle Street at least every hour. When you arrive at Europa Bus Centre just simply walk out on to Gt Victoria Street and cross the road to the bus stops and take a number 9a, 9b or 9c bus, any of which will leave you right outside the door of Kingsbridge private Hospital, the trip takes about 15 minutes. Be sure to allow plenty of time and get there early for your appointment. On your return trip, the same bus numbers will take you from right outside Kingsbridge back down Lisburn Road and stop outside Europa Bus centre.
The medical itself is straight forward. It’s advisable to wear decent trainers, tracksuit bottoms, and a t-shirt for this medical as you will be working up a bit of a sweat on a treadmill. You will be called in for a brief consultation with a doctor to discuss your general health and you’ll be asked a few questions about your medication etc. The doctor will probably listen to your heart and lungs and take your pulse. You’ll be assessed to check that you are fit enough to undergo a treadmill stress test. This might involve an ultrasound check of your heart which is not uncomfortable in any way. When all that is done, you will be asked to remove your t-shirt and a number of electrodes will be stuck to your skin for an ECG reading. It might be necessary to shave off a little body hair for this, which is no big deal. A blood pressure cuff will also be fitted to your arm. All this preparation takes longer than the test itself. The test is carried out following a widely used set of principles known as the Bruce Protocol. Fortunately, driver testing only requires you to undergo the first three stages of the Bruce protocol, unlike e.g. military, airline pilots or police etc who typically have to go through five stages. Your blood pressure will be recorded at this stage, and if it’s dangerously too high or low they won’t proceed with the treadmill test, which is, of course, a fail. Your BP will also be recorded at each stage of the test.
The treadmill starts off at a fairly leisurely pace, the best way I can describe it is, it’s like walking normally from e.g. the Guildhall to the city baths on William street for three minutes. A beeper sounds after 3 minutes and the pace then increases, the treadmill speeds up and now it’s a bit steeper, like walking up Creggan Street, except its about three times longer than Creggan Street, and that stage lasts for another three minutes. If you start to find the going a bit tough, stage three is a fair bit tougher, another beep and the speed picks up to a very brisk walk and you’re now on a steeper incline, like going up Creggan Hill to Westway as fast as you can walk for another 3 minutes. As a big man in my 60’s I was really feeling the pressure for the last 90 seconds of stage three, it was pretty hard going, but not impossible by any means.
It is strongly recommended that if you think there’s a chance you might be brought in for what’s often called a 352 medical, you really should get out a few nights per week and do some walking, and include some hills on the route. You could do worse than follow the route I mentioned, start off doing it at your own pace and build up the pace day by day. Even better, go along to the gym and get yourself familiar with the treadmill. Set the exact levels for stages 1, 2 and 3 which are always used, and are as follows.
Stage 1 - 3 minutes at 1.7 MPH at an incline of 10%
Stage 2 - 3 minutes at 2.5 MPH at an incline of 12%
Stage 3 - 3 minutes at 3.4 MPH at an incline of 14%
Gradually getting yourself up to speed over the course of a few weeks will really build up your ability and make the treadmill test really easy. Search for Bruce Protocol on YouTube for some very accurate examples of what the test involves but remember you will only have to complete the first 3 stages. When the test is finished, the technicians who put you through the treadmill test will not wish to give an opinion as to whether you have passed the test or not, they will leave that for the highly qualified doctor to decide after considering all the data from the treadmill test, blood pressure and ECG readings.
A big thank you to Sean for detailing the process.