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Overcoming barriers to learning

What were the key findings?

  • Current practices for supporting disabled students and doctors are variable. There isn’t a single process followed by medical schools or postgraduate providers, although similarities exist.
  • The findings outline key principles for supporting disabled learners. These include fostering a positive culture, having clear established processes and supporting information sharing.
  • Undergraduate education providers were more familiar with the Gateways to the professions guidance than postgraduate providers. Three quarters of those surveyed think the current guidance should be updated.
  • Providers said they wanted the revised guidance to include assurance for decision-making processes, and tools for quickly accessing and interacting with the content.
  • Disabled students encounter different types of barriers, including communication, physical, financial, and cultural barriers. Students would like to be better informed about what support they can expect and for any form of revised guidance to be shared with them.
  • Students sometimes did not share information about their health because they were unsure what support would be offered and were worried about possible implications.

Why did we commission this research?

The aim of this research was to gather evidence to inform a revision of the Gateways to the professions guidance. We wanted to speak to medical education providers and disabled medical students to hear their views on how our revised guidance could help them.

We're responsible for overseeing all stages of medical education in the UK, and we want to make sure fairness is embedded throughout. The Gateways to the professions guidance provides practical suggestions to education providers on supporting disabled students and doctors in training.

What did the research involve?

The research involved online surveys and interviews with medical school staff, providers of postgraduate medical education (Health Education England local teams and deaneries) and employers to explore the challenges posed when using the existing Gateways to the professions guidance, and examples of what they consider to be good practice in this area. We also spoke to medical students about their experiences of admissions procedures, and the support available during their studies.

Read the full report

Identifying unmet needs from the Gateways to the professions guidance

Identifying unmet needs from the Gateways to the professions guidance