On the ground: work and readjustment

How the BMA helped a doctor who was experiencing delays in her planned return to work

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 20 August 2021
meeting of people

A doctor wanted to return to work. She had been unwell for some time and occupational health had recommended some reasonable adjustments to make her return more manageable and in the best interests of her, her patients and her colleagues.

The plan included a phased return to work, a reduced number of hours and required some workplace changes.

These were with the aim of reducing possible triggers to the health condition and to avoid being left alone in case a sudden relapse occurred which would cause safety concerns.

She contacted the BMA because everything was happening very slowly.

The employer had needed to discuss the doctor’s return to work with appropriate individuals and ensure that all the necessary recommendations could be put in place. They had sought advice from appropriate specialists.

The delay was causing frustration and upset for the doctor which was having a negative impact on her health. The loss of personal independence associated with her health condition, inability to drive and financial concerns were all compounding her anxiety.

The doctor in this case was appreciative of the knowledge and experience of the BMA adviser and it is easy to see why. The employment adviser contacted and chased up the necessary staff, represented the doctor in meetings and gave her advice on employment, disability and pension legislation.

The employer – credit where it’s due – was supportive when the member went back to work, in accordance with relevant disability legislation. However, even with the recommended support now in place, the overall stress of the health, work and personal situation were taking a toll on her health.

The BMA were involved throughout, keeping regular contact with the doctor and employer. Around a year after she returned to work it became evident to all that ill health retirement would be the best option for the doctor. The BMA supported the member through this entire period.

Anyone who has been through this process will confirm that it is a lengthy and bureaucratic one. In this case, there were frustrating delays in gathering the necessary reports and other information. The BMA adviser took this particular issue higher up in the organisation in order to accelerate the process.

The ill health retirement was then approved, which was an immense relief for the doctor. She received full pay for a subsequent notice period of three months even though the sick pay had been exhausted. She also received the holiday pay she was owed.

For the BMA adviser, there was the privilege of attending the final meeting where the member was thanked by senior staff and management for her long contribution to the NHS. The member was able to retire with dignity and a feeling of having been valued.

She said to the BMA adviser, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you!’

BMA members seeking employment advice can call 0300 123 1233, email or talk to an adviser 

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