Road User Licensing,
Insurance & Safety
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR
Tel: 020 7944 2909
Web site: www.dft.gov.uk
Date: 24 October 2013
Permitting the use of evacuated tube containers for the taking of blood specimens from persons accused drink or drug driving
I am writing to make you aware of proposed changes to section 15 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA 1988) and section 34 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 (TWA 1992) to permit the use of evacuated tube containers for the taking of blood specimens from drink or drug driving suspects. These amendments are proposed in response to concerns aired by stakeholders over the current requirement to use syringes to take blood specimens in this context.
As you may be aware, section 15 (5) RTOA 1988 states that:
“Where, at the time a specimen of blood or urine was provided by the accused, he asked to be provided with such a specimen, evidence of the proportion of alcohol or any drug found in the specimen is not admissible on behalf of the prosecution unless—
the specimen in which the alcohol or drug was found is one of two parts into which the specimen provided by the accused was divided at the time it was provided, and
the other part was supplied to the accused.”
Section 15 (5A) contains similar provision for specimens of blood taken from persons incapable of consenting, under section 7A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Sections 34 (3) and 34 (3A) TWA 1992 contain the same wording to cover offences involving drink or drugs on transport systems.
Sections 15 (5) and 15 (5A) RTOA 1988 are also referred to without modification in sections 83 and 96 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, to cover offences involving drink or drugs in shipping and aviation contexts.
In practice, this requires the medical practitioner or registered healthcare professional to take the blood specimen using a syringe, and then divide the specimen between two glass vials. This procedure is no longer common practice for other purposes where blood is being taken, and nurses may require additional training in taking blood specimens using a syringe.
The introduction of evacuated tube containers for the taking of blood specimens is anticipated to provide the following benefits:
Increased safety of the procedure for the medical practitioners and registered healthcare professionals taking the specimens, due to reduced risk of needle-stick injuries
Increased ease and likelihood of extracting the required amount of blood
Reduced training requirements for the medical practitioners and registered healthcare professionals taking the samples
Increased familiarity with the equipment for the medical practitioners and registered healthcare professionals taking the samples
Reduced equipment procurement costs due to the common use of this equipment in the NHS, in contrast to the more bespoke equipment needed for syringe and glass vial collection
However, the introduction of evacuated tube containers would contravene sections 15 (5) and 15 (5A) RTOA 1988 and sections 34 (3) and 34 (3A) TWA 1992, because in practice when using evacuated tube containers to take blood, two separate specimens would be taken from the accused as part of one continuous process. The specimen supplied to the accused would therefore not be one of two parts into which the original specimen was divided, as it would be an independent specimen. Changes to section 15 RTOA 1988 and section 34 TWA 1992 are required in order to permit the use of evacuated tube containers for the taking of blood specimens.
The proposed changes to section 15 RTOA 1988 and section 34 TWA 1992 will continue to permit the use of existing equipment alongside evacuated tube containers for the taking of blood specimens.
At present, we are looking to make these changes when parliamentary time allows and in the next appropriate legislative vehicle.
Due to the fact that this is a minor procedural change with a likely impact only on the police and those providing healthcare services we are not intending to run a public consultation on this issue. Accordingly we wanted to notify you, and other directly affected stakeholders of the proposal before we finalise the preparatory work for these changes to be made. We welcome any comments and suggestions you may have, and any problems you envision with this proposed change.
Please could you provide any comments to me at the contact details above. It would be helpful to hear from you by close of play on Thursday 7 November.
I am at your disposal if you should have any further questions.