BMA lobbying

Disability in the medical profession

Our report outlines steps needed to improve support for doctors and medical students with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 18 October 2021
Topics: NHS delivery and workforce, Equality, diversity and inclusion
NHS Structure Article Illustration

Play an audio version of this report

What you will get from this report

  • Findings about the experiences of disabled people studying, training and working in the medical profession.
  • Recommendations on the priority areas for action to improve support for disabled doctors and medical students.


Key findings

  • Many disabled doctors and medical students struggle to get the adjustments they need and are entitled to. Just over half (55%) of disabled doctors and medical students who require reasonable adjustments say they have obtained them.

  • Over three-quarters (77%) of respondents told us they were worried about being treated unfavourably if they disclosed a disability or long-term health condition to their employer or place of study.

  • Only two in five (41%) said that telling their workplace or medical school had led to improved support.

  • Less than half (46%) said that their colleagues had been supportive since they disclosed their disability.

  • Workplaces and medical schools do not pay sufficient regard to the realities of living and working with a disability or health condition. Only a quarter (26%) of respondents agreed that their place of work or study’s sickness absence policies took proper account of their disability or health condition. Almost half (47%) had felt pressured to return to work or study before they were well enough to do so.

  • Despite all the challenges, many disabled doctors and medical students exist and thrive at all career stages, branches of practice and specialties. They have clear priorities for what needs to be done to better support them in medical education, training and workplaces. This includes specific calls for more tailored careers advice, advice on ill-health retirement and pensions, and better access to informal sources of peer support from other disabled doctors and medical students.
  • Foreword
  • Key survey findings
  • Areas for action to improve the profession
  • Lack of visibility and barriers to disclosing disability
  • Action needed to create a disability-inclusive culture
  • Improving policies and processes in medical education and employment
  • Effectiveness of organisational support initiatives