Doctors demand better NHS support for colleagues with disabilities

Doctors with disabilities who need specialist equipment to do their jobs should receive more support from the NHS, BMA representatives have warned.

Delegates at the BMA’s annual conference in Brighton backed a motion highlighting the ‘confusing, inefficient and unfair’ funding system for junior doctors with disabilities, and called on health education bodies to ‘urgently tackle’ the issue.

The motion demanded a re-evaluation of the current system of funding for basic equipment such as wheelchairs. Current rules mean that this equipment remains the property of the employer, meaning junior doctors must reapply for support every time they move between posts.

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, BMA junior doctors committee deputy co-chair, said:  ‘For doctors who are disabled, it is not their disabilities holding them back in training, but this fragmented system and needless bureaucracy involved in supplying essential equipment that is making their jobs far more difficult than they need to be.’

She added: ‘As a junior doctor with a disability I know only too well how exhausting this is, having to go through the same laborious process every few months as I move to a new workplace.

Unfair system

‘Also, most of this equipment is highly personalised, built to meet the doctor’s individual needs, so it makes no practical – or financial – sense to force them to return it to their employer, who will be unlikely to be able to use it again.’

The passed motion proposes that equipment ‘should be transferred with the doctor even if they move to another region or nation of the UK’, and implores health education bosses to ensure training providers have a ‘rapidly accessible fund from which access to work equipment can be paid’.

‘Doctors living with a disability have much to offer the medical profession. Having frequently found themselves on the other end of the stethoscope, their own experience of being a patient can benefit their medical practice, improving the way they interact with patients and understand what they are going through,’ Dr Barham-Brown told the conference.

‘The government and NHS need to recognise doctors with disabilities not as burdens but as the assets they are, and improving support and resources will go some way in building a medical workforce that is more reflective of the world around us.’

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