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Do you work with a colleague with a disability? Chances are you do, although there is also a good chance that you don’t know about it.
I have had a disability myself practically all my adult life, and I know of many colleagues who are disabled but are hesitant to declare their disability. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to it, many of us suffer in silence instead of seeking support.
One in five adults in the UK is disabled, and anonymous NHS staff surveys indicate a similar proportion of the medical workforce has one or more disabilities or long-term health conditions. But a far smaller number – only around 2% – declare this to their employers or to us here at the BMA.
Why? One reason is that some disabilities are more visible and apparent than others, especially if someone uses a wheelchair, a walking stick, a service animal, or assistive technology. But many more individuals have hidden or invisible disabilities.
The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. This includes long-term conditions from the point of diagnosis, and progressive conditions before they start having a substantial adverse effect. If a condition is controlled by treatment, it is still a disability if without that treatment it would have a substantial effect.
The spectrum of conditions covered by the Act is therefore really broad: mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disorders, hearing loss, autism, diabetes, dyslexia, vision impairments, arthritis, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV, cancer, traumatic brain injury, sleep disorders and many more.
Since they often appear at first glance not to be disabled, people with hidden or invisible disabilities often face specific challenges in their workplaces or places of study. They can be viewed with suspicion by colleagues who are unaware of their particular needs, and they too often struggle to get the reasonable adjustments they are legally entitled to, to help them work or study on an equal footing with their peers.
Most people aren’t born with a disability – over 80% of disabled people acquire disability later in life. It can be hard to know where to turn, especially if you have navigated your whole career to date without needing adjustments. And yet we still know so little about the scale of some of these issues among BMA members.
This week we celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an annual global event that celebrates and reflects on the role and achievements of disabled people in society. The BMA recognises that disabled doctors and medical students are an asset to the profession – we bring unique perspectives that can help us all to better understand our patients’ experiences.
That is why we have also launched a UK-wide survey to find out more about the experiences of disabled doctors and medical students, to identify how the BMA can better support them throughout their careers and help them seek the reasonable adjustments they are entitled to.
I have filled it out, and I urge you to do so too if it applies to you; it is totally anonymous. Also, please share this widely with your networks so our disabled colleagues can also participate. This will help us immensely to support you.
You can find the survey here.
Working as doctor with a disability can be a challenging environment in the NHS. While there are safeguards against discrimination, discrimination occurs on a regular basis especially for those with a disability caused by a medical condition. Often the culprits are the clinical directors and the medical directors assisted by managers who in synergy act to humiliate and undermine the doctor in an effort to push the person over the edge and leave the trust. These tactics are well known well rehearsed and widespread in the NHS. I work in the Royal Bounemouth Hospital. I can clearly say that I have suffered discrimination on the basis of my disability.
I am a disabled doctor. I have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia as well as difficulty walking long distances. My NHS facility hired me knowing of these disabilities and made a place for me on the team. I really am grateful to them.
Thank you very much for introducing this blog. but can I ask, is there going to be cherry picking where
i) less disabled candidates are going to be chosen more often than a candidate with a disability? DWP recongnises at least 4 different categories of impairment. Is equal representation going to happen along those lines?
ii) what about intersectionality with other protected EA 2010 categories.
For example is a disabled woman going to be treated worse than a disabled man?
Is a black disabled person going to be treated worse than white or other racial group?
It is already happening in professional circles
and the sad part about this Mishandling of this Oxford student is that without the video footage, a room full of " adults" were prepared to stand by and not stand up for this man's rights. A room full of people who are supposed to be the lawyers , doctors and politicians of the future, did nothing.
My colleague above is very correct, disability discrimination is mainly perpetrated most by those in leadership , so that when candidates apply for jobs the usual response is a) we don't have support for you
b) go somewhere else
c) even "go back to your own country" even when you are British
d) your English is poor, even when you are British because there is the automatic assumption that a disabled person is brain damaged or stupid.
So can I ask when disabled persons turn up in hospital are they going to be treated just as abhorrently?
A disabled doctor in the workplace is like a patient , GMC says, and you want to ask yourself why the NHS is performing so poorly?
And don't forget, the chronic mistreatment and undermining by some Occupational Health doctors . some of these non disabled doctors are attached to hospitals and do nothing to help in integrating disabled people into the workplace.
a) they collect salaries for writing letter which are non contributory to integrating disabled staff into the workplace. A locum agency would be better placed by consulting a disabled doctor's GP
b) result in false delays , so that there is the impression there are lacking doctors in the UK workforce, but in fact it was just to create fake vacancies in the workplace so that more money is spent on visas for immigrating doctors. Is this some bizarre type of voting tactic?