The major UK diving organisations have a medical declaration system. The background to this is described below:
For years divers had been required to undergo routine medicals in an effort to maintain the safety of diving in the UK. The system had worked well and it was rare for a medical condition to cause an incident directly. The most common reasons for mishap underwater are human error and equipment malfunction.
The previous system had faults. The medicals were rarely performed by doctors with diving medicine expertise, and had little predictive value for the future. Divers are really being certified fit to dive immediately after being seen by the doctor, and the best guess is that they probably would not run into problems for the next 1, 3 or 5 years or indefinitely (unless there were a new medical problem) depending on the type of certificate issued. A frequent complaint from divers had been the considerable variation of the cost of the medical.
Dr Stephen Glen, a member of the UKSDMC (the previous title of the UKDMC), and his colleagues (Steven White and Dr James Douglas, Fort William) studied the safety of diving medicals with the full participation of the Scottish Sub Aqua Club (SSAC) members, around 3000 members. In this study it was found that the questionnaire part of the form was the most useful way of screening members to see if further assessment was required. The routine medical examination added little and SSAC members, whose answers to the questionnaire identified problems, could then be seen by diving doctors, and benefit from more appropriate assessment including specialist investigation if required. The results of the study were put forward for consideration by the UKSDMC after publication in the British Journal of Sports Medicine resulting in the UKSDMC recommending the existing Recreational Diving Medical be changed to take account of this evidence.
The Medical Declaration System works as follows:
- From 2020 (updated 2021) a newly designed Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form has to be completed annually on renewal of membership. The Form is a legal document and the signed declaration confirms that the answers are truthful.
- Please note the new form requires the diver to consider whether they have had COVID-19.
- Please note near the top of Page 1 of the 2021 form it makes it clear that should a diver develop a new health problem that results in a new “Yes” response to the questions on the form, they must contact a UKDMC Medical Referee for advice and not simply wait until the next annual review as the new problem may have implications for diving.
- If the response to all questions on Page 1 of the Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form are answered ‘No’ this page can be signed and is to be held by the SAA Club/BSAC/SSAC Branch until the following year. Pages 2 and 3 do not need to be accessed. The member should retain a copy of the form with their qualification book.
- If the response to any of the questions on Page 1 of the Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form is ‘Yes’, the diver has previously been in contact with a UKDMC Medical Referee and this is NOT a new problem the diver can continue to use the previously signed declaration form or fitness to dive certificate provided the expiry date has not been passed. The 2021 version has boxes on Page 3 of the form for the diver to initial and date to confirm there are no significant changes in a known medical condition, no new condition and/or no changes in medication/treatment (if the diver is unsure they can contact a UKDMC Medical Referee for advice. If the diver has the 2021 version, they initial and date the first box and give a copy to their Diving Officer or equivalent but keep the original so this process can be repeated in subsequent years until the certificate has either expired or there is a new medical problem or change. If the diver has an old version and would prefer to have the 2021 version signed by a UKDMC Medical Referee they are welcome to do so at their own cost.
- If the response to any of the questions on Page 1 of the Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form is ‘Yes’ and the diver has NOT previously been in contact with a UKDMC Medical Referee, or it is a problem previously addressed by a UKDMC Medical Referee but the expiry date has passed, the diver needs to download and complete Pages 2 and 3 of the form and make contact with a UKDMC Medical Referee via telephone or email for advice. As a result, one of the following should occur:
- From a telephone or email enquiry, the UKDMC Medical Referee may only need to sign page 3 of the form. The diver will need to send the form with a stamped self-addressed envelope and the agreed fee. Once returned a copy of Page 3 only should be handed to the Diving Officer or member of the club who is responsible for overseeing the forms and is to be held by the SAA Club/BSAC/SSAC Branch until the following year. The diver should retain the original with their Qualification Record Logbook. As Page 1 needs to be reviewed each year please note the 2021 version includes spaces on Page 3 for the diver to certify there is no change in or no new medical conditions and no change in any of their treatments/medication, therefore confirming a new form is not required. Hence, in subsequent years the diver should keep the original of page 3 to initial and date each year if there is no change until the certificate expires (or there is a change) and give a copy to the Diving Officer or equivalent.
- Rarely the UKDMC Medical Referee may need to obtain further information from the diver’s General Practitioner or treating physician to clarify some issues, the fee for which is the responsibility of the diver.
- If the UKDMC Medical Referee advises further assessment and needs to see a diver for an examination, then this will be performed at the diver’s expense. Such assessment may include physical examination, or specialist investigations such as breathing tests or heart scans for example. The fee for this is a matter between the UKDMC Medical Referee and the diver concerned and will depend on the complexity of the medical problem. If the diver is found to be fit to dive, the UKDMC Medical Referee will complete Page 3 of the Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form. A copy of Page 3 only should be handed to the Diving Officer or member of the club who is responsible for overseeing the forms and is to be held by the SAA Club/BSAC/SSAC Branch until the following year. The diver should retain the original with their Qualification Record Logbook because its period of validity may span a number of years and hence the period covered by several annual Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Forms. In the 2021 version, after the diver reviews page 1 annually they initial and date Page 3 as in point 1 above.
- For members holding a current signed Page 3 or a current in date copy of the previously used Certificate of Fitness to Dive form signed by a UKDMC Medical Referee and have declared NO new health problems, these forms should accompany the annual Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form. If the diver has an old version and would prefer to have the 2021 version signed by a UKDMC Medical Referee they are welcome to do so at their own cost.
- The UKDMC Medical Referee will maintain diver confidentiality at all times, and the only information released to the diving organisations will be a copy of Page 3 of the Recreational Diver Medical Declaration Form (usually supplied to those organisations by the diver themselves) which contains no medical details. Details of the medical conditions will not be released.
- The final court of appeal for members is the UK Diving Medical Committee (UKDMC) comprising the medical advisors to BSAC, SAA and SSAC. Appeals can be made to the Secretary of the UKDMC via the “Contact Us” page of this website. Please put “Appeal” in the Subject heading. A set of medical standards is published and updated by the Committee. These can be in the “Medical Conditions” section of this website.