Health Professions

Disabled doctors getting ignored in the workplace

By - Integrated Care Journal
Disabled doctors getting ignored in the workplace

A new report from the British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed that disabled doctors are not receiving the support that they are entitled to and many fear unfair treatment if they speak out.

In the study of more than 700 disabled doctors and medical students across the UK, the BMA found that just 55 per cent are receiving the adjustments they need. This is despite it being a legal duty on the part of an employer, education or training provider to make sure disabled people are not substantially disadvantaged

In addition, 77 per cent of respondents told the BMA that they were worried about being treated unfairly if they disclosed a disability or long-term health condition, and only two in five said that telling their workplace or medical school had led to improved support.

One of the respondents told the BMA: “I was questioned so much on why I needed what I needed and waited so long for senior managers to approve that there was so little time left in the post, it was not worth getting the equipment. ”  

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, a GP trainee who sits on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group at the BMA, and who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and uses a wheelchair, said: “It’s shocking to see that there are so many barriers when it comes to providing this support, but if Covid-19 has taught us anything it’s that we don’t need to waste time with red tape and bureaucratic stalling. In most cases, it’s unnecessary, slow and incredibly frustrating. ”

The report found that the most commonly requested change is flexible working, with the majority of respondents (57 per cent) saying they had asked for an alteration in their hours of work, training or study, while a further 48 per cent had asked for time off for appointments.

Only one in ten had requested changes to buildings or premises, and 34 per cent had asked for specialist equipment.

According to the survey, lengthy and complex processes, slow or only partial implementation, a lack of engagement by employers and schools, and perceived costs or impacts on others are listed as common barriers, with some not even asking for fear of negative career consequences.

Dr Lewis Hughes, who is the BMA Scottish Junior Doctors Committee Co-Chair and a Type 1 diabetic, said:  “Most importantly, no student or doctor should ever be made to feel unable to speak out about their disability or to seek the adjustments they need to help them care for patients effectively. It’s clear from today’s survey that more must be done to make sure disabled colleagues feel just as valued as the people they’re committed to caring for. ”

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