Doctors with Disabilities
Approximately 11 million adults in the UK have a disability (approximately one in five of the adult population). Therefore it is not surprising that quite a number of doctors come into this category. Increasing numbers of NHS organisations are realising the benefits of employing disabled staff. Doing so increases the diversity of the workplace and if you have a disability, as a doctor, it may mean you are better able to relate to the patient’s experiences.
The BMA Equality And Diversity Committee report, states that ‘as 70 per cent of disabled people will acquire their illness or impairment during their adult life or while at work, it is reasonable to suggest that a substantial proportion of doctors will acquire an impairment at some point during their career’
There are many resources available to support Doctors with or without disability and these are available here. You may also wish to visit the BMA website for information on Reasonable adjustment for medical students and trainee doctors.
You do not have a legal obligation to disclose a disability, unless there are health and safety issues either for yourself or for your colleagues as a result of your condition. If this is the case, then you are obliged to inform your employer under the Health and Safety Act (1974). The GMC produces the Good Medical Practice (GMP) Guide and this also has some directives on looking after your own health that take into account patient safety. The GMP guide says ‘If you know that you have, or think that you might have, a serious condition that you could pass on to patients, or if your judgment or performance could be affected by a condition or its treatment, you must consult a suitably qualified colleague. You must ask for and follow their advice about investigations, treatment and changes to your practice that they consider necessary. You must not rely on your own assessment of the risk you pose to patients.’ See the GMC website for more information.
Legislation (the Disability Discrimination Act) is in place to help doctors with disabilities and chronic conditions to work, putting the onus on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees and providing government funding for aids and building modifications (funding follows the disabled employee).
Things that help ill or disabled doctors:
Early identification of difficulties faced by individuals and their organisations
Positive and flexible mind set
Good mentoring schemes and good mentors
Flexible working patterns and revision of task allocation
Positive leadership and willingness to discuss difficulties
Use of the Disability Discrimination Act to help with funding and resources
Disabled role models