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End exam discrimination for doctors with disabilities

More needs to be done to help doctors with disabilities

The BMA should work with medical royal colleges and the GMC to end exam discrimination towards doctors with disabilities, a conference has heard.

Members attending the annual BMA junior doctors conference on 13 May backed calls for the association to consult with colleges and the medical regulator in reviewing the reasonable adjustment process for postgraduate exams.

Manchester foundation doctor 3 psychiatrist Gursharan Johal said that too many doctors with additional needs were being unfairly penalised by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to examination adjustments.

She said: ‘There are more trainees with additional needs working and training in the NHS than ever before.

‘These may be physical needs, or they may be educational difficulties which can affect reading, writing or speaking. Reasonable adjustments are not a one-size-fits-all concept like our esteemed [medical] colleges think.’

Dr Johal, who is herself dyslexic, said junior doctors with disabilities often faced additional challenges and barriers during the exam process, with the system too standardised to cater for individual needs.

She called for all medical royal colleges to adopt reasonable adjustments, adding that a doctor’s chosen specialty should not dictate the level of support they received in examinations and assessment.

‘We have a situation now where trainees request adjustments when they apply to take their exams and are often only told what their adjustments are days before the examinations, with no choice for changing these,’ she said

‘This is clear disability discrimination to our junior doctors taking their exams to work in our health service to care for our patients. These people need a fair run at their postgraduate exams.’

Under the 2010 Equality Act, universities are required to make reasonable adjustments prior to a student commencing study, including areas such as mobility support, changes to work or on-call rotas and extensions on deadlines.

Medical schools should have a disability support adviser to guide students and help provide assessment as to what support might be needed during foundation years and beyond.

BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat endorsed the plan but highlighted that the GMC had recently launched a working group into the ways in which access to medicine could be improved for those with disabilities.

Consult the BMA’s guidance on the reasonable adjustments process

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