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Epilepsy & Train Driving

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TerryH

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Hello everyone.

I'm new to the forum and have signed up to ask a specific question.

If I have a disability, namely epilepsy, but my epilepsy doesn't cause (and hasn't ever caused) the types of seizures where I blackout, lose awareness or functioning, then would I still likely be precluded from joining as a driver?

I've had my diagnosis for 15 years now, and I'm aged 40. My seizures are simple-partial seizures (confined to one area of the brain) and don't interfere with my brain functioning, physical functioning, thoughts or actions. I could experience a seizure whilst driving on the motorway for instance and it wouldn't cause any issue whatsoever.
I'm declared fit to drive, and always have been.

I'm interested in people's thoughts on this, please.

The RSSB says:
You must have no history of blackouts, epilepsy (since the age of five), sudden loss of balance, co-ordination or any significant limitation of mobility etc. You will be subject to diabetes (urine), Electroencardiogram (heart) and blood pressure tests. Insulin dependent diabetics will not be considered.

I have none of the above, other than epilepsy.. And not the 'stereotypical' kind that people often think about (tonic-clonic seizures resulting into loss of awareness).

Are cases looked at on an individual basis, or would I be wasting my time by submitting an application?
Thanks for everyone's thoughts.

Terry.
 
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Stigy

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I can’t say definitively, but the RSSB specifically mentions epilepsy and doesn’t stipulate between different types. Historically it would be a “no”, but it may be that each case is judged on it’s own merits.

The only way to have a definitive answer I guess, would be to enquire directly with the TOC/FOC you’d apply to.
 

TerryH

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I can’t say definitively, but the RSSB specifically mentions epilepsy and doesn’t stipulate between different types. Historically it would be a “no”, but it may be that each case is judged on it’s own merits.

The only way to have a definitive answer I guess, would be to enquire directly with the TOC/FOC you’d apply to.
Thanks Stigy.

I'm hoping they wouldn't reject me simply because of a condition which would have no bearing on my ability to perform the role safely.
 

Mak1981

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What exactly do the seizures do to you? Ie how are you aware of them etc if they have no affect on you?
 

TerryH

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What exactly do the seizures do to you? Ie how are you aware of them etc if they have no affect on you?
I’m not sure if links to external websites are allowed? However, this from the Epilepsy Foundation‘s website explains it much more clearly than I could.

 

Mak1981

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Again what exact effect do they have on you? That website gives a range of things including being "frozen" for up to 2 minutes, to get proper advice you would need to say exactly what effect these seizures have on you
 

TerryH

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Again what exact effect do they have on you? That website gives a range of things including being "frozen" for up to 2 minutes, to get proper advice you would need to say exactly what effect these seizures have on you
As initially stated, they don't have any effect on my thought process, physical or mental functioning, and so being 'frozen' doesn't apply to myself.

I'd describe mine as a 'tingling' in my stomach. Although... it's hard to describe. The sensation would be similar to what you'd experience during a 'dip' on a roller-coaster.. Without the adrenaline, fear, rush of air and screaming people.
 

Muse29

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Thanks Stigy.

I'm hoping they wouldn't reject me simply because of a condition which would have no bearing on my ability to perform the role safely.

I'm only speculating here but if you have a diagnosis then I can only assume that they would be skeptical. Think about it, if you suddenly have a blackout out of the blue and it causes an incident and it was discovered that you were diagnosed with epilepsy then questions will obviously be asked of the TOC!

I certainly wouldn't want you to not pursue your application on that basis though and as others have said, you can only speak honestly to the TOC about it. I'm guessing it also wouldn't hurt to get as much info from your GP to corroborate the condition and how it affects you if it's not in the "traditional" sense.
 

Eebbs1912

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You can apply, get to the medical and initially fail but then supply information from your own doctor that is taken in to consideration and if it's ok them they'll approve your medical. I know someone who has had to do this for years now because of a valve replacement in their heart.
So don't write yourself off just yet.

Edit

Another problem might be any medication you are taking for it that would cause you to fail a d&a but it might not even apply?
 

lammergeier

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You can apply, get to the medical and initially fail but then supply information from your own doctor that is taken in to consideration and if it's ok them they'll approve your medical. I know someone who has had to do this for years now because of a valve replacement in their heart.
So don't write yourself off just yet.
This is good advice. There are plenty of drivers who have to take extra documentation with them to medicals so it's possible. If you do get that far, I would ask your specialist or consultant prior to the medical to write a letter explicitly stating that "in (their) opinion, this condition should not preclude this person from driving." If the Occupational Health disagree then that's their prerogative but often they are often happy to accept such letters from specialists.
 
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The DJ

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Has anyone considered the possibility that the drastic change in the working environment, suddenly being alone in a cab operating a complex piece of machinery and at the same time having to remain constantly alert could potentially lead to a change in the brain's activity in relation to the precise effect a seizure had on you. A change that might only manifest itself after some period of time in the new position.
 

Applepie356

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To put it bluntly I don’t think you can get a safety critical role with Epilepsy on your medical record, regardless as to how harmless it may be.

I’ve known someone who has had a one off seizure as a child, and even then they were barred from any safety critical role in the railway. They’ve gone over 20 years seizure free (No medication) and they are still considered a risk.

Unfortunately it’s just the way it is, epilepsy (or seizures) are very unpredictable and not very well understood in the medical world.
 

ST

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I would say give it a go and be completely honest at your medical. At least this way if you get this far you will have demonstrated your aptitude for the role, it is then for the Medical professionals to make an informed decision based on your circumstances.

Wish you all the best.
 

Eebbs1912

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Go and ask your doctor first and save all the hassle of worrying and guessing.

I'm pretty sure you can pass a normal pts medical with it but would have the red triangle for being accompanied.
 

John Bishop

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Hi Terry. Sorry to be blunt about this, but I think it highly unlikely they consider you. The situation with rail recruitment as you may know is that each vacancy is massively oversubcribed sometimes by thousands Of applicants. Unfortunately I can’t see a company taking a chance with that especially for a safety critical role.

However, as others have said above, get medical advice on it and see where you get to. Good luck.
 

Jaytrains

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This is an interesting subject, what if you’ve had a blackout due to a car accident does that still count to u having a blackout in general? And no seizures?
 

TerryH

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You can apply, get to the medical and initially fail but then supply information from your own doctor that is taken in to consideration and if it's ok them they'll approve your medical. I know someone who has had to do this for years now because of a valve replacement in their heart.
So don't write yourself off just yet.

Edit

Another problem might be any medication you are taking for it that would cause you to fail a d&a but it might not even apply?
Thanks Eebbs, I appreciate the advice. I should be OK with the medication thing, as I've passed other medicals for other roles.
This is good advice. There are plenty of drivers who have to take extra documentation with them to medicals so it's possible. If you do get that far, I would ask your specialist or consultant prior to the medical to write a letter explicitly stating that "in (their) opinion, this condition should not preclude this person from driving." If the Occupational Health disagree then that's their prerogative but often they are often happy to accept such letters from specialists.
Again, thanks Iammergeier! I'll see if I can recontact the Consultant Neurologist who dignosed me. I was discharged from his care (without any review periods going forward) so I may need a rereferral to speak to him again.
Has anyone considered the possibility that the drastic change in the working environment, suddenly being alone in a cab operating a complex piece of machinery and at the same time having to remain constantly alert could potentially lead to a change in the brain's activity in relation to the precise effect a seizure had on you. A change that might only manifest itself after some period of time in the new position.
I should be alright; I can drive a car, I'm currently a police officer with Police Scotland and drive police vehicles to response standard. I deal with emergencies, fatalities, work alone, work to shifts etc. Nothing has ever triggered a full seizure.
I would say give it a go and be completely honest at your medical. At least this way if you get this far you will have demonstrated your aptitude for the role, it is then for the Medical professionals to make an informed decision based on your circumstances.

Wish you all the best.
Thanks ST. It's worth a shot I guess; it'd be disheartening to pass through each stage only to be knocked back at the medical, but I guess that's life!
Go and ask your doctor first and save all the hassle of worrying and guessing.

I'm pretty sure you can pass a normal pts medical with it but would have the red triangle for being accompanied.
Good advice Eebba. I'm going to see if I can consult the Neurologist whose care I was under in the past.
Out of interest, what's the 'red triangle for being accompanied?'

This is an interesting subject, what if you’ve had a blackout due to a car accident does that still count to u having a blackout in general? And no seizures?
I can't be sure, but I'd imagine that they'd only be worried about a history of blackouts that appear to have no specific cause... Or a cause which couldn't be negated.
 

JRE

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Have a look on the RSSB website Terry.

The Fitness Standards / Medical Standards for train drivers says...

General health
2.1.2.1 Railway undertakings shall not permit train drivers to continue driving duties where there is reason to believe they may be suffering from any medical
condition or be taking any medication, drugs or substances, which are likely to
cause:

a) Sudden loss of consciousness.

b) A reduction in attention or concentration.
c) Sudden incapacity.
d) A loss of balance or co-ordination.

e) Significant limitation of mobility.

2.1.2.2 Railway undertakings shall, as part of medical examinations of train drivers,
include an electrocardiograph (ECG) examination at the first medical
assessment, then at the first assessment after reaching the age of 40 and at each
periodic reassessment thereafter.


^ you'd need to question whether your type of seizure could lead to any of the above.

If not, you're probably good to go!
 

marty1977

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To be blunt and I apologise but it's a no you would not be considered suitable. Can't say anything else than that. Good luck.
 

TerryH

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Have a look on the RSSB website Terry.

The Fitness Standards / Medical Standards for train drivers says...

General health
2.1.2.1 Railway undertakings shall not permit train drivers to continue driving duties where there is reason to believe they may be suffering from any medical
condition or be taking any medication, drugs or substances, which are likely to
cause:

a) Sudden loss of consciousness.

b) A reduction in attention or concentration.
c) Sudden incapacity.
d) A loss of balance or co-ordination.

e) Significant limitation of mobility.

2.1.2.2 Railway undertakings shall, as part of medical examinations of train drivers,
include an electrocardiograph (ECG) examination at the first medical
assessment, then at the first assessment after reaching the age of 40 and at each
periodic reassessment thereafter.


^ you'd need to question whether your type of seizure could lead to any of the above.

If not, you're probably good to go!
Thanks JRE, could you tell me where exactly I can access these standards, please?
To be blunt and I apologise but it's a no you would not be considered suitable. Can't say anything else than that. Good luck.
Thanks Marty. Is this your personal opinion, or do you have knowledge / experience in this area?
 

LCC106

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In your original post you state that the RSSB says you must have no history of epilepsy since the age of five. I suspect this is as clear cut as it will get. I do not know for sure, but as this is set out by the Rail Safety and Standards Board it is highly unlikely a railway Doctor would sign their name to pass a medical for someone who doesn’t meet the criteria. Just because someone hasn’t had an episode, seizure etc. doesn’t guarantee it won’t happen. Occ Health are very risk averse.

I think you would be wise to contact someone in recruitment to ask whether it would be an outright no. If so you can save time and effort in applying, if not then go for it.
 

TerryH

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Yeah, that's right. I took that from Google. However, as JRE has pointed out to me, when you read the medical standards on the RSSB website there is no mention of epilepsy specifically. In fact, seizures aren't mentioned but are implied in 'must not have any sudden loss of consciousness'...
In your original post you state that the RSSB says you must have no history of epilepsy since the age of five. I suspect this is as clear cut as it will get. I do not know for sure, but as this is set out by the Rail Safety and Standards Board it is highly unlikely a railway Doctor would sign their name to pass a medical for someone who doesn’t meet the criteria. Just because someone hasn’t had an episode, seizure etc. doesn’t guarantee it won’t happen. Occ Health are very risk averse.

I think you would be wise to contact someone in recruitment to ask whether it would be an outright no. If so you can save time and effort in applying, if not then go for it.


My original post may have been an old, outdated rule.
 

LCC106

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Ah right. In which case it’s either contact recruitment/HR before applying or go for it but be prepared that you MIGHT fail at the final hurdle. I did have a quick look in the early hours and couldn’t see the quote on the RSSB website but I think there are areas where you need to login and I couldn’t create a login when I tried a year or so ago.
 

Stigy

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Ah right. In which case it’s either contact recruitment/HR before applying or go for it but be prepared that you MIGHT fail at the final hurdle. I did have a quick look in the early hours and couldn’t see the quote on the RSSB website but I think there are areas where you need to login and I couldn’t create a login when I tried a year or so ago.
If you’re rail staff you should be able to create a login using your work email address assuming you have one?
 

LCC106

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It was access to the rulebook that I was after and IIRC I had to state which co. I worked for and it wouldn’t let me subscribe. Will have to try again.
 

Platform9

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To put it bluntly I don’t think you can get a safety critical role with Epilepsy on your medical record, regardless as to how harmless it may be.

I’ve known someone who has had a one off seizure as a child, and even then they were barred from any safety critical role in the railway. They’ve gone over 20 years seizure free (No medication) and they are still considered a risk.

Unfortunately it’s just the way it is, epilepsy (or seizures) are very unpredictable and not very well understood in the medical world.
I was a conductor when I had a one off seizure. I had my driving licence taken away for 6 months and was restricted for the same period. I went though all the investigative processes with the NHS including EEG's & an MRI. Nothing was found and after the 6 months lapsed I applied for my licence again and had another medical. The Dr at the medical looked at all my results and concluded I was fit for duty again as long as I provided my returned driving licence as evidence to my employer. He also said that the rules are the same for being a driver.

I'm now a (trainee) driver, and had the same process in the medical for this role.

To the OP, apply and supply evidence if you get to the medical.
 

alxndr

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It was access to the rulebook that I was after and IIRC I had to state which co. I worked for and it wouldn’t let me subscribe. Will have to try again.
No log in is required for the rulebook.
 

TerryH

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I was a conductor when I had a one off seizure. I had my driving licence taken away for 6 months and was restricted for the same period. I went though all the investigative processes with the NHS including EEG's & an MRI. Nothing was found and after the 6 months lapsed I applied for my licence again and had another medical. The Dr at the medical looked at all my results and concluded I was fit for duty again as long as I provided my returned driving licence as evidence to my employer. He also said that the rules are the same for being a driver.

I'm now a (trainee) driver, and had the same process in the medical for this role.

To the OP, apply and supply evidence if you get to the medical.
Thanks so much for this reply Platorm9.

I've sent you a direct message, I hope you don't mind.

To everybody else; thanks once again for all of your responses.
 
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