Peter Lapsley: Temporary disabled badges

Peter Lapsley

Now that I no longer have an axe to grind (recovery from the revision surgery on last year’s failed whole hip replacement appears to be going well), I would be interested in doctors’ reactions to the argument for the introduction of temporary disabled badges.

During the six months I waited for surgery, I was in considerable pain and had increasing difficulty in both standing and walking. Many people wait longer for hip replacements and with greater disabilities.

The disabled (“blue”) badge scheme in England is administered by local authorities. Although a badge must be renewed every three years, it is effectively permanent. It confers considerable privileges on the holder who may, with certain restrictions (chiefly in London), park in disabled bays in car parks, park free of charge at a parking meter or in pay-and-display bays, park without a time limit at places where others are time limited, and park for up to three hours on single or double yellow lines, except where there is a ban on loading or unloading or other restrictions.

I would argue that people waiting with disabling hips requiring replacement or other temporary disabilities should be able to apply for a (say) three month badge, renewable for up to a year in quarterly increments when necessary. It may be that such temporary disabled badges might carry with them a more limited range of privileges than the “permanent” ones, although the temporarily disabled may, for the time being, be no less disabled than the permanently disabled. But simply being allowed to park in disabled bays, for limited periods on single yellow lines and for unlimited periods in time limited parking bays would have made my wait for surgery considerably more tolerable. As it was, I spent far more time than I might have wished looking for vacant pay-and-display bays close to the places for which I was heading, and fuming at the numbers of badgeless cars hogging the disabled bays in supermarket car parks.

The process for applying for the current effectively permanent disabled badges is quite complex. For temporary ones it could arguably be simpler – a diagnosis, assessment of disability and prognosis (including, perhaps, the date of intended surgery), signed by one’s GP or consultant ought to suffice. With the exception of those on specified benefits, patients could quite properly be required to pay reasonable administrative costs for providing the doctor’s certificate and the badge.

It would be helpful to know whether GPs and interested consultants would support such a scheme.

Peter Lapsley is the patient editor of the BMJ.